Why You Should Care About Net Neutrality

As FCC turns up the heat on "Net neutrality," here's why you should care.

ByABC News
October 22, 2009, 4:24 PM

Oct. 23, 2009— -- "Internet neutrality."

You've probably heard the term or read it online and simply skipped past it without a second thought. Maybe it seemed abstract, arcane or a bit geeky, not something you as an Internet user needed to worry about.

But now it's time to pay attention, because this week the Federal Communications Commission turned up the heat on a long-simmering debate known as "Internet neutrality."

Thursday, in a bold move, the FCC proposed regulations to ensure that broadband providers -- the companies providing high-speed Internet connections to our homes -- deliver Internet traffic to subscribers in a nondiscriminatory manner.

So why should you care? If you use the Web or instant messaging -- or Google or Facebook or Twitter or use VoIP to make a call, to take just several popular examples -- you are enjoying the fruits of the Internet's history as an open and "neutral" network. Individuals or small start-ups launched each of these applications and services on a level playing field.

Each succeeded because Internet users found their services valuable. Many other innovative ideas had an equal chance to succeed on the Internet, but failed to attract users. That's how the Internet works, and it's important to keep it that way -- open and available for new applications to rise or fall on their own merits, without interference.

That's what makes the Internet different from other media. Broadband companies provide consumers with "on ramps" to the Internet. But unlike other media, they do not try to control what gets carried across their networks. They are, for the most part, agnostic as to which online applications or service their subscribers' access.

No online service gets preferential treatment, and an online service that competes with the broadband provider's own offerings is delivered without discrimination.

As a result, innovators are free to develop new technologies and services -- taking advantage of the Internet's open set of common technical standards -- and share them with the entire world. There is no need to negotiate or seek permission from anyone on the network.