By Bekah Paxton, Staff Writer
In America, we pride ourselves on having wide access to global media and information, because in the pursuit of happiness we are free to gather information and knowledge for ourselves at our own risk. This may be in danger of change.
There are pretty widely known reports of nations like China and North Korea, who censor their citizens’ internet and media access in order to maintain control in the name of communism and political ideology. Although our federal government isn’t closing in on our access to information via the Internet, corporations may do just that in order to make money more efficiently from the services they provide.
According to an article by the BBC released on Monday, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is considering allowing Internet service providers (ISPs) to provide content providers (sites including Google, Netflix, Yahoo and YouTube) a faster track for sending content or services to users. This “faster track” would be exclusively for users who pay a certain fee, thus reducing the amount of data and faster service speeds. Such costs would be translated into fees for subscribing to such content providers.
Obama has since stated his opposition to this policy, quoted in the BBC saying, “Open net access should be seen as a basic right that all Americans should enjoy.” He supports a policy of net neutrality, where there is no paid prioritization system which grants speedier access to content and information on the Internet to those who chose to pay a fee.
While it seems illogical that any internet consumer would support the idea of prioritizing paid web users over non-paid web users, we have to understand a bit from where these larger service providers are coming from. In what seems like a constant state of ebb in our economy, services are harder to provide when not paid for at the increasingly high capacity and efficiency they operate at.
Let’s face it: as typical advancing consumers, we want things now—or as instantaneously as possible. ISPs realize this, and are taking advantage of people’s overwhelming desire to get things faster. By proposing that one can gain “data cable priority,” or faster service, I think depending on the fee required, some will say this is a small price to pay for more immediate web surfing. By creating a sort of system of competition for faster connection and service speeds, more people may decide to pay up and get their Netflix streaming faster. But what about people who can’t or don’t want to pay the fee? Are they to be denied the same access as those with the means to do so?
The “net neutrality debate” reflects an age-old American controversy: If you’re wealthy and decide to pay more money, do you get greater access to information? In his statement on the FCC’s pending decision, the President contended, “We cannot allow internet service providers to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas.” Furthermore, he stated his support for blocking this two-track prioritization system and taking all measures to prevent this financial disparity issue from coming to fruition. The FCC’s decision is yet to be reported.
The truth is that access to information should never be limited for anyone, and especially not based upon the amount of money you have to invest into the Internet. Although the United States is a pretty free nation, it seems that sometimes when certain aspects of capitalism go too far, censorship and limitation of access to information online is still a very real threat.