Why I support the FCC and Net Neutrality, and why you should, too

February 27, 2015
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Imagine you own a small lumberyard. Your major competitor is Home Depot, which also sells lumber, among other things.

You can compete with them because you are specialized and can offer a higher-quality product and better service, since lumber is your industry and not retail. Home Depot competes by having better brand recognition and using economies of scale.

You both have your customers, and everyone’s happy.

But imagine if Home Depot was not only your competitor but also owned all of the roads in your area — the roads you need to use if you're going to deliver your lumber to your customers. Now imagine that Home Depot is demanding you pay a fee to use its roads, and because it has a monopoly in your area, there are no other roads available to use.

Obviously, you don't have the money to build your own roads; you're just a little lumberyard. You have two choices: go out of business or pay, thus losing your profitability and, eventually, making you go out of business.

Comcast is like Home Depot if Home Depot also owned the roads.

Comcast owns NBCUniversal, a content-creating media corporation that is kind of like Home Depot's lumber department. But it also owns Comcast Cable, the Internet company we all know and loathe.

Comcast Cable is like the roads, and Comcast wants to charge guys like Netflix (your lumberyard) for using its roads, even though its customers are already paying for the roads and those are the customers who want its lumber (i.e., Internet content of all kinds).

There is no free market in a monopoly, so this is a case where regulation actually helps free the market. Making the roads public was part of what made America great, as the ability to travel freely anywhere in the country without worrying about tolls and tariffs allowed everyone the freedom to find new opportunities for innovation and ship products all over the country.

Net Neutrality is about trying to make sure the roads of the Internet remain open to the public so we all can prosper. Only in this case, Comcast gets to keep the roads and charge for them, too — it just can't double-dip by charging both content providers and customers.

Throughout the Internet’s lifespan, we have had safety principles in this area under the form of Net Neutrality — the concept that all data must be treated equally and the Internet providers cannot slow down traffic from specific sources.

In September 2013, Verizon sued the Federal Communications Commission, saying these rules were unfair. Verizon won because of a technicality — the Internet is labeled as an “information service” instead of a “communications service.” This would allow them to slow down and block traffic to websites it doesn’t want its customers to use.

Verizon tore up the rulebook that made the Internet great. The Internet is computers communicating with one another, and what the FCC intends to do is reclassify the Internet to its proper “communications” title. This gives the FCC the power to tape up the rulebook again and return the Internet to its proper — and original — state.

This helps small businesses and startups, students and consumers, and this helps protect our freedom of speech from companies that want to censor what we are and are not allowed to look at on the services we pay for.

This is not a government takeover — this is not Obamacare for the Internet — and this is not going to add new fees and taxes. This is restoring what we have had for years and codifying the rulebook so businesses will be held accountable for breaking said rules.

Whether you are a conservative, a liberal, or anything in-between, this is a non-partisan issue that all Americans should agree on. Net Neutrality is the foundation of the Internet, and we need to protect it.

David Mortimer

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