Most people understand that net neutrality is a good thing. It stands for what we want our governments to guarantee us: Equality. Liberty. And a decent Wi-Fi connection.
And really, in the year 2014, where half of our lives are happening somewhere in safety of fiber optic cables, sitting right next to gifs of cats and videos of people dumping ice cold water on themselves, that’s all the average citizen needs to lead a content life.
The thing is, because the internet has become more than a place to store pictures of food, because we’ve let it become more than that, we now have a responsibility to ourselves to make it worth something.
When one spends as much time online as our generation, it’s hard to look at the internet objectively and think of it as a separate entity. Everything we do, say, and contribute online becomes part of it. We know the internet exists because we use it, yet we’re somehow comfortable with allowing the platform to be shaped without our consent. The majority of us have gotten too comfortable being simply consumers of the virtual world and we’ve ignored its architecture and structure for our own convenience.
For many in the US, the Federal Commission on Communication’s (FCC) fight against net neutrality was the much-needed call to action. It was too big of a change, too quickly. People have grown to love their independent Youtube artists and cheap Netflix, so they’re speaking out.
But for us in Canada, this topic may seem irrelevant. Internet lanes will still be equal up here even if the FCC shows its ugly side.
While it’s true that Canadians won’t suffer as much as Americans if net neutrality ceases to exist in the States, we still suffer from the same monopolization of Internet service.
The cause behind net neutrality is the large amount of corporate interest involved. Companies need to make more money because that’s just how running a business works. It’s net neutrality today, but it might another thing tomorrow. It might be more restrictions and one profit-oriented decision after another. As internet becomes a commodity people need rather than want, these companies have higher incentives to hike up prices and do as they wish with the internet we’ve built.
We, as consumers, pay a high price to access Internet services. Not only do we pay our monthly fees, we also provide endless amounts of data that companies can sell to third parties.
As it exists right now, the Internet isn’t here to encourage global or even local dialogue. It isn’t here to serve the average citizen who wants to use it as a window to the world. Right now, our Internet is used to sell you things and take things from you so it can sell them to other people.
Those who want net neutrality to be a basic principle of the web say that it is necessary to maintain an open web. But that’s assuming that our web is already open and free.
In Canada, Bell and Rogers control most of the Internet service provided. If you don’t buy it directly from them, then your service provider pays them a sum to use their lines.
Our internet can’t be free and open if it is controlled by two major companies with their own interests which won’t always align with the interests of the Canadian public.
Changing the conversation around net neutrality might be too hard, and considering that large companies like Google and Netflix have joined the activist ranks, a focus on the inherent unfairness of the internet isn’t very likely to emerge.
But when it comes to the internet, the medium for international conversation and the keeper of many aspects of our personal lives, we can’t continue fighting the little battles and silently suffocate under the shadows of Internet giants.