Net Neutrality

What if you were doing research to learn more about something – it could be for school, work, personal health, or anything else – and, unbeknownst to you, the answers you came to were not the full picture? Think about which questions you turn to the internet in order to get answers for.

Is it fair for internet service providers (ISPs) to censor, limit, or otherwise prevent access to information on the internet for the sake of increasing their revenue? Net Neutrality can help prevent companies from taking censorship too far, and keep their services valuable to users.

Is censorship of information on the internet bad?

One aspect of Access as defined by NAMLE is that “Media literacy requires access to all information and ideas without censorship.” Extreme censorship of information can lead to people not being fully informed, having an extremely limited understanding, or even having completely skewed perceptions of reality. Fahrenheit 451, anybody?

This is one extreme of media censorship, but complete erasure of history in order to deceive an entire population of people is not what Net Neutrality is addressing. The opposite side of the media censorship spectrum, however, is also scary to think about. A complete free-for-all on the internet? Access to any and all information, media, and content that anyone wants to create? That could get really dark really fast, and doesn’t sound too great, either.

I think it’s safe to say that we’d ideally meet somewhere in the middle of these two censorship extremes. It is in this middle ground where Net Neutrality exists to keep ISP companies from taking censorship too far just for the sake of increasing revenue. 

How does the way we’re accessing information determine what information we receive? 

Think about how parents limit the content that their child can access on a tablet, doing so with their children’s best interests at heart. The parent’s overall goal is to protect their children from content that could be dangerous to young and impressionable minds, which I would describe as an example of good-natured censorship. 

Now consider this idea of censorship and limited access to information when the censorship is not with your own best interests in mind, but the best interests of the ISP. Without Net Neutrality, ISPs could censor information to hurt their competitors and benefit themselves, sure.

What about censorship influenced by politicians, billionaires, or other entities who have motives that may not be in the best interest of the general public? Without Net Neutrality, our access to information may be limited in ways that are much more impactful to society than having ISP websites load slowly because your own ISP is afraid of a little competition.