Cable’s dirty attempt to survive in the age of Netflix

Slade Lane

Net neutrality: a phrase so boring it seems to slip past us, much like the latest cat video on YouTube. But what is net neutrality? And why do some cable companies want to put an end to it? Simply put, net neutrality is everything great about the Internet—an equal and level playing field for all the wonderful companies and people that create content that you enjoy, from Twitter to Netflix.

The term “net neutrality” was coined in 2003 by Tim Wu, a media law professor at Columbia University. It refers to the idea that all content on the Internet should be treated equally. That means not charging content providers differently based on their platform or number of users.

But what does all that really mean? Netflix already charges money for its streaming services, doesn’t it? Yes, it does. But it is able to provide that service to you without having to pay, for instance, Time Warner Cable extra money so that content is delivered quickly and effectively. Net neutrality keeps the Internet “open.” Hulu is able to stream its content just as quickly as Netflix without having to pay a cable company an extra fee to provide quality content.

The Internet becomes “closed” when outside companies want to control the rate at which websites stream their content. This prospect is worrisome to many of the Internet companies we love and use because net neutrality is being threatened. Without net neutrality to block them, cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable could become common carriers. This means that services like Netflix or even Facebook could be subject to pay these companies to speed up their services. If Netflix doesn’t pay, the rate at which content is delivered could decrease dramatically.

If net neutrality is no longer protected, or worse, ended, big cable companies will be able to buy their way into taking over and monetizing the Internet. New content creators would be at a disadvantage to start up their own websites or services. If new websites had to pay cable companies a premium for more reliable streaming services, less lucrative, new start-ups would not be able to compete with well established websites.    

The Internet is one of the few free places where inventors and content creators can venture into and still make it without the force of large corporate gold working against them. Keeping net neutrality not only helps our favorite established websites, but aids any one of us who would like to create the next big thing on the Internet—and actually be able to do it.

Many Internet giants like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have all spoken out in support for maintaining net neutrality. In fact, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has opened its website for people to come and comment on the issue of net neutrality. It is not too late to make your voice heard if you believe in keeping the Internet open and free from the monopoly of outside cable companies.

If you’d like to leave a comment for the FCC, just go to http://www.fcc.gov/comments. And if you are looking to better understand net neutrality (and laugh while learning), check out YouTube vlogger Hank Green debating net neutrality in 3 minutes.

Protecting net neutrality may sound like a boring cause with little effect on us as college students. Yet the fight to keep the Internet neutral could be one of the most important issues for us.

Slade is a senior studying language arts education.