As a subscriber to both Netflix and Verizon FiOS, I am greatly concerned about something. It seems that, as an end-user and consumer, I am the one who is going to suffer here. This is a clear example of why Net Neutrality is important to all of us!
Net Neutrality is the principal that Internet Service Providers ought to treat all network traffic across the internet equally, regardless of the source. However, there has been a trend among some providers to offer better (i.e. faster) data rates to companies that can pay for the preferential treatment.
This has actually sparked something of an interesting debate. Many people seem to believe these days that money is the same thing as speech, and we ought to be able to be free to do whatever we want with it to influence the world around us. That argument almost makes sense! However, there’s also the higher principle of equal speech and equal access to information. Clearly, I believe that, as a culture, we owe it to ourselves to ensure that everyone has equal access to all information with no economic barriers or influence.
Now. Netflix has refused to buy this preferential treatment from Verizon. So, users like me, who pay good money for each of these services are suffering. Take a look at this graph from the Washington Post. These are Netflix streaming speeds. You can see very clearly whom Netflix has done business with, and even when, within the last year.
And now, if your data rate drops and you happen to be on a Verizon network, you get an error message from Netflix that blames Verizon for the problem. Presumably, because Verizon is demanding payment for better data rates! Look back to the graph. You can see what happened when Netflix gave in to Comcast’s demands for payment.
This may seem very minor for now… However, I am terrified at the idea that multi-million-dollar corporations have such a strong influence on the quality of the information I can access, and even more terrified at the prospect that they may even get to decide what I am allowed to access in the future.
I demand Network Neutrality!