The idea of net neutrality began in 2005 when phone companies and Internet Service Providers decided they wanted to control what their customers could see and do on the Internet. This creates so many restrictions in a society that should be free and independent from corporate control. A divide between economic classes is the first issue of net neutrality. If ISPs decide to charge users each time they visit a site, segregation between the rich and the poor is created. Is it fair that only the wealthy members of society have the chance to view all of the information available to people on the Internet? The answer is no, because all citizens should have the right to obtain knowledge in order to make informed decisions about their environment. When one cannot afford the content that should be readily available to them, society suffers a whole. When the majority of citizens cannot pay for content, a significant portion of society will make uniformed decisions about vital issues.
With net neutrality, the Internet becomes a closed, locked down, read-only culture that has a select audience of affluent citizens. According to Tim Wu in an article in Slate, the main aspect of this debate is determining whether or not ISPs should have the power to restrict which websites a viewer can access, allowing certain websites to be discriminated against. The Internet is being controlled by media conglomerates, who seek to synergize corporate interests with the Internet. When users have to pay for access or when their usage is restricted, the Internet becomes another means for major media corporations to converge. This is the essential cause of the net neutrality dilemma.
This leads me to question society’s right to freedom. Net neutrality eliminates the democratization of technology, because individuals will no longer be able to afford the information being disseminated over the Internet. Major media corporations become the leaders of our society, without considering the needs and wants of the citizens. Democracy is neglected in exchange for commerce and financial status. Hegemony is demonstrated accurately, as wealthy corporate giants and ISPs express their leadership by controlling the Internet.
In relation to net neutrality, Lawrence Lessig provides the example of photography in his book Free Culture. Lessig states that “But though we could imagine this system of permission, it would be very hard to see how photography could have flourished as it did if the requirement for permission had been built into the rules that govern it” (Lessig 25). This means that if restrictions had been set on what a photographer could take pictures of, photography would not have evolved to play such a substantial role in our culture. I see the relevance between this and the Internet. If we place limits on what can be viewed by those who use the Internet, it is impossible to determine how much both the Internet and society will be negatively impacted. The Internet will not be able to expand and advance if people cannot access it efficiently. Society will suffer when the Internet is not providing it with the information it needs. Using the success of photography is an effective example to show ISPs that the freedom a medium provides is more valuable than the money a corporation can obtain. Lessig also states, “The concentration of power produced by concentrations in ownership… if because less visibly, on the concentration of power produced by a radical change in the effective scope of the law” (Lessig XV). If the structure of the Internet is altered and certain information is not available, varying perspectives are not presented to the public which will result in the reduced diversity of our culture.
When Henry Jenkins writes, “Today, media convergence is sparking a range of social, political, economic, and legal disputes because of the conflicting goals of consumers, producers and gatekeepers” (Jenkins 93), it is obvious that the combat between public and private interests is more harmful than productive. We must not allow media conglomerates to restrict what information is available in order for major corporations to drain us of our money and intelligence.
Overall, the most significant feature of the net neutrality conflict is the threat to democracy and free culture over corporate financial gain. Based on the above expressions, this is a cause for which I will take a stand, because information should be shared freely without the interference of a corporation and a culture which requires permission.
Jenkins, Henry. “Convergence? I Diverge.” June 2001. Technology Review. 10 Nov. 2009. <http://web.mit.edu/cms/People/henry3/converge.pdf>.
Lessig, Lawrence. Free Culture. New York: Penguin Books Ltd., 2004.
Wu, Tim. “Why You Should Care About Network Neutrality.” 1 May 2006. Slate. 7 Nov. 2009. <http://www.slate.com/id/2140850/>.