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Obama’s Stance on Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality is a belief that everything on the internet should be treated equally by service providers and they should not have the ability to charge different users based on content, platform, or mode of communication.  Internet service providers are trying to offer Internet “fast lanes” to sites willing to pay an extra fee, which would make the site faster for users, while keeping other sites who are unwilling to pay in a “slow lane” and restrict user access.  President Obama recently issued a statement describing his stance on the issue, saying “We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas.” He called for the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to treat the Internet as a public utility and regulate it to keep it from being exploited by the market.

If the Internet service providers were able to control the content that we are able to access it would cause the allocation of sponsored search results to be much more competitive.  Websites like Google currently have a combination of sponsored search results and non-sponsored search results that deal with the hubs and authorities and page rank that we discussed in class.  However, if ISP’s were able to control the content that we could access, they would basically be selling the Internet to the highest bidder, and only providing access to sponsored search results.  This would monopolize the Internet and the ISP’s could charge absurdly high prices to sites for faster access, which would mean that only large, successful sites could afford to pay the fees, which would reduce the chance of a smaller competitor being successful.  Websites rely entirely on users and because of this the ISP’s are able to bully websites into paying the extra fees.  An example of this is in 2013 when Comcast slowed download speeds for Netflix until they agreed to pay the extra fee because they were losing users.

The Internet is also a very popular medium for news and communication, and the manipulation of this can be very dangerous.  If people were only allowed to visit certain news sites, or communicate about certain ideas, the opinions of those news sites would become more popular, and we could find ourselves in an information cascade.  The crowds would increase on these sites that are willing to pay the extra fees and people will begin to follow the opinions of the crowds on these sites.  Not only is there a risk of an information cascade, this concept also completely takes away from the free flow of ideas.  The Internet is the largest networking tool in the world and also is the most valuable resource for information and if this were being manipulated by ISP’s, it could be argued that the growth and efficiency of our economy would suffer.


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