Net Neutrality Matters to Everyone

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—These summer interns explain what they’ve learned about Net Neutrality and why they think defending an Open Internet is important

—By Laura McDiarmid and Jordan Wade, Cleveland Clinic Creative Interns on assignment at OneCommunity

Laura McDiarmid and Jordan Wade

Laura McDiarmid and Jordan Wade are learning about technology issues during their summer internship at OneCommunity.

—Over the past three weeks the two of us have been learning about what net neutrality is and what debates currently surround its continuation.

Put into laymen’s terms, net neutrality is the concept of internet service providers not playing favorites and charging all websites and internet users the same amount for service. Surprisingly, a large number of people are actually aware of the definition of net neutrality and how it affects their daily lives.

An understanding of this concept is especially important at the present time due to an escalating conflict on Capitol Hill regarding a newly introduced proposal by the FCC.  The proposed legislation would place a barrier upon net neutrality by allowing internet service providers to create a “fast lane” and a “slow lane”.  How does this affect the average U.S. citizen, you might ask?  These “lanes” would force companies to purchase more expensive plans in order to reach customers faster.

Take Netflix, for example.  This popular video-streaming company is used throughout the United States and is everyone’s favorite way to catch up on their favorite TV shows or watch a movie.  One of the best features Netflix has to offer is their instant-streaming, which takes away the hassle of ordering the video, having it shipped via U.S. mail to your house, and then sending it back.  Rather than going through that long process, the video can be sent directly to your television, computer, or mobile device for your immediate viewing.

Now, imagine what would become of Netflix if their streaming suddenly became colossally slow.  Customer satisfaction rates would undoubtedly drop significantly, and many people might cease to use Netflix altogether.  This would eventually snowball into a disaster for the entire company, and possibly them going out of business in the long run.  Obviously, Netflix employees would like to do anything in their power to make sure this does not happen, which brings us back to net neutrality.

If the legislation proposed by the FCC pertaining to “fast lanes” and slow lanes” were to succeed, Netflix would practically be forced to pay a premium to enter the “fast lane”.  Without the premium, the aforementioned disaster could potentially occur, sending their company spiraling into the abyss of failed entrepreneurial attempts.

For a large company like Netflix, this premium would be easy to pay, however for a small start-up company, it would be virtually impossible to obtaining the funding to cough up the cash.  This would put a dent in the free-market system currently practiced by the United States by placing a strong fiscal barrier to entry against new/smaller companies.  An increased start-up cost could deter potential competitors from entering the market, potentially turning the market for U.S. electronic and virtual services providers into a monopoly.

In order to preserve the fundamental belief in the free-market system, it is imperative that U.S. citizens voice their concerns regarding the FCC legislation.  This is something nearly everyone has an interest in, because most of us use the internet at least once a day, whether for work, school, or entertainment.  To protect the open internet is to protect one of the most valuable resources of the 21st century, and action must be taken against the FCC proposal.

For a more technology-focused discussion of net neutrality, see “Will the FCC Kill Net Neutrality,” by Marv Schwartz, OneCommunity Chief Scientist. Or send your comment to the FCC here:

About the Authors:

Laura McDiarmid is a senior at Westlake High School. Jordan Wade is a senior at Orange HIgh School. They are interning at OneCommunity, the Cuyahoga County Public Library and the Cleveland Clinic Office of Civic Education as part of the Cleveland Clinic’s Creative Learning Internship Program.

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