Headlines about net neutrality are on and off again since net neutrality has been repealed. You might be sick of hearing about it, so you might be wondering why you should care. Here is why you should start caring about net neutrality and how it might affect you.
1. You Expect Your Internet To Be Uncensored
You live in the United States and expect your internet service to not be censored or have the information you access online regulated in any kind of way, right? If you’re thinking yes, then we’re sorry to report that you’ve been taking net neutrality for granted this whole time. Citizens in countries like China, North Korea, Burma, Bangladesh, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia only have access to a version of the internet that is censored by their government. This is what internet censorship and government regulation looks like in these countries:
- North Korea: All websites like other forms of media in this country are under full government control with severe restrictions. It’s approximated that as many as 4% of the elite in North Korea may have some sort of internet access available to them.
- Burma: Their government filters emails and blocks access to websites that expose human rights violations by their government and any content that disagrees with the Burmese government.
- Cuba: Cuban citizens don’t have internet access at home. The only way they can access it is through public access points that are government controlled and censored. Everything their citizens do is monitored with storing browsing history, keyword filtering and specific IP blocking. Only Cuban citizens that have been identified as pro-government can upload any online content.
- Saudi Arabia: It’s estimated that about 400,000 websites have been blocked by the government from their citizens from accessing any site that has content incompatible with their Islamic beliefs.
- Iran: All web bloggers must register at Iran’s Ministry of Art and Culture. Those who do not comply and are caught will be jailed. One blogger got sentenced to 20 years back in 2011 for “false information” and “acts against national security”.
- China: Is probably the most known country for internet censorship. Their government filters their citizens’ searches, blocks sites and even erases anything that they don’t like. They’ll even direct search terms that they don’t like to come back with results that they do like.
- Syria: Cybercafes around the country are legally obligated to ask all customers who use their devices and internet for identification and record when they’re using it. All the collected information must be reported to the government in a timely manner.
- Tunisia: The government mandates internet providers to report all information from bloggers including IP addresses, personal information, content and emails.
- Vietnam: The government requires all search engines like Google and Yahoo to report all information they have on bloggers that are using their platforms one way or another. They also block information like advocates for religious freedom, human rights and democracy.
- Turkmenistan: There are no traditional internet providers like we know them as here in the United States. In Turkmenistan, the internet provider is the government and they block a wide range of sites and monitor emails.
- Bangladesh: The government blocks international websites like The Wire for publishing content that speaks out and criticizes their government. They also block content that’s deemed as propaganda, creates disorder, discriminates on religious values and adult content.
- Russia: The country has a running blacklist of websites they don’t want their citizens to see. They went as far as making VPNs illegal so their citizens can’t circumvent their block list.
These censorship laws and overstepping by their governments are concerning. If you’re one of the unlucky residents of one of these countries, the penalty for accessing what you shouldn’t is high including outrageously long prison sentences and worse.
2. You Don’t Want To Pay More Money Just To Use Your Internet How You Want
Everyone has their favorite streaming services and websites they love to access routinely. You pay for your internet service and you expect to be able to access them like you always have. However, your internet provider is essentially the gatekeeper to everything you love online. What if your internet provider tried charging you extra to watch your favorite show on Peacock or pay your Mint Mobile phone bill?
Without internet providers being forced to keep their internet open, they could line their wallets with tactics that will hinder your experience online like paid prioritization. You might not notice it overnight, or even next month, but it could slowly trickle in right underneath all of our noses. Paid prioritization would give bigger media sites and companies an advantage to load faster than other potential great sites you wouldn’t otherwise know outside a Google search. This inadvertently gives undue influence to subscribers and cuts out anything new.
3. You Like Having Options For Service
A neutral and open internet for everyone naturally promotes competition because consumers can make their own free choices about what services they want to use and what content they want to access. Plus, with net neutrality there’s key rules that internet providers must follow like:
- Be transparent: Internet providers have to disclose how they manage incoming and outgoing traffic on their networks.
- Can’t block content: Internet providers can’t block any content they want. They can block content that’s illegal, but as far as lawful websites and streaming services that are owned by other companies they have to allow.
- Can’t discriminate or throttle speeds: Internet providers can’t overstep by making wild adjustments to their service like throttling internet speeds when their customers view competitor content.
- No slow or fast lanes: Internet providers can’t charge websites, content providers or other services a fee to be delivered to their subscribers faster.
Imagine a scenario where you want to look up internet providers in your neighborhood, but you can’t because your internet provider has blocked it or made sites with that information load unusually slow for you. That would be unreasonable, unethical, and would be protected under net neutrality.