September 26, 2016
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Next President,
The internet is essential to modern day life. According to the International Telecommunication Union, it connects over 3 billion people worldwide, 51% of American adults have used online banking, and any one person can access a seemingly infinite wealth of information. Oh, and it's also in jeopardy.
The reason the internet is so seemingly endless with information is because anyone can add to it at any time, provided they have a connection. This law is called net neutrality and, put in layman’s terms, states that all data will be treated equal. This means one can access any part of the internet for the price set by the provider. For example, one needs to buy certain television packages to view certain channels, but one only needs a connection to access the entire world wide web. Internet providers see this policy as detrimental. They say it slows the innovation of web-based technology because of the wealth of data on the internet. But, the fact that no one man or organization can decide what is more important than the other makes the internet so special.
Think of this in terms of roads in a town. The town’s roads are average in quality, and the citizens want faster and better roads to drive on. A business then says it can make the roads faster and better than ever, so the citizens give the business the ability to do so. What roads will the business focus on? The roads leading to them and their partners. Those roads will be super fast, but the roads going everywhere else will become toll roads and stay relatively the same, or even deteriorate! Comcast and Verizon are that business. If they have a monopoly on the internet, it will be even more expensive and slower than ever.
Why have these companies not already done this, one might ask. That is because the Federal Communication Committee (FCC), the independent government agency responsible for regulating the radio, phone, television, and now internet industries, lists the internet as a public utility. A public utility is anything supplied to the public that is seen as a necessity; for example, water and electricity. Both of these cost money to receive, but the government has regulations on the price. This prevents the providers from overcharging poorer communities and rendering them unable to function. Recently however, the FCC has taken a vote on whether the internet should stay a public utility. In a three-to-two decision, the committee extended the internet’s life as a public utility, but the threat has not vanished.
All parties and ideologies of this great nation that we live in believe in the freedom of speech and currently, the easiest way to talk is through the hundreds of thousands of servers that host the greatest platform ever known to mankind-the: internet. While the government is not underestimating its importance to modern life, it seems that it does not really care much. And that truly is the biggest hurdle we face in the quest to protect the greatest invention in our history.