Special Report: The Neutrality Battle

Net Neutrality: What is it, why should you care?

When you go online, most of the time you know what you want. Movies, music, info, and more is just a click away. But what if what you wanted wasn’t there?

Net neutrality is a complicated issue with pros and cons. Without a neutral net, it could change what websites you see, and some companies think it could change the playing field for the better.

Almost 300 million people, nearly 90 percent of America is online. The world wide web is sometimes like the wild, wild west for better or worse. It’s a free and open market and an exchange of ideas and ingenuity.

Simply, net neutrality is about keeping the internet open and accessible without showing favoritism to one site or product.

Cyndee Sturgis Landrum, CEO and Director of the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library imagines a world with a much different internet without net neutrality.

“I wouldn’t say it’s gloom and doom, I would say it’s pretty cloudy and there’s maybe some torrential downpours.”

The internet as you know it now is neutral. Companies like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon are trying to roll back rules. They say it will allow more competition between service providers and encourage innovation.

Evansville web developer with Lieberman Technologies, Andrew Epperson feels it will do something else. The old saying, “money talks” may do more than cream rising to the top.  Epperson feels those with the biggest pockets get the biggest exposure, leaving little guys shriveling in cyberspace.

“Those that are the pro-net neutrality are trying to prevent that,” he says, “so Amazon has the same right to bandwidth and information as the barber shop down the street that has a small business website.”

Epperson admits corporations like those battling for tighter rules on the web have a duty to their shareholders to make money, and a non-neutral net can help do that. “It’s another avenue to generate revenue,” he adds.

Most corporations say they support an open internet, but believe net neutrality hampers competition. Exactly what Epperson thinks will happen with small business in a pay-to-play world.

Roots of net neutrality run back to the 1930’s-era Communications Act, signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt. It gives users protection and access without discrimination.

Comcast says the statute is outdated and harms consumers by creating a cloud over broadband investment decisions and innovation. Verizon says the FCC is doing the right thing, trying find a new legal basis for protecting the internet.

In a digital world where information flies on fingertips, two sides battle for what they think is best.

“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, that’s between Big X corporation and Big X corporation, it has nothing to do with me’” Sturgis says, “until it does.”

The FCC has received more than 9 million comments on the topic and is in the middle of reviewing those. Federal officials say a decision on net neutrality, whether it stays or changes, will likely come later this year.

If you still have questions, you can find answers online at the FCC website on “open internet,” or on savetheinternet.com.

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