MANHATTAN, Kan. - Network Neutrality, or "Net Neutrality" for short, is the guiding principle that preserves the free and open Internet. When we open up our browser to surf the web or check in our MySpace account, we expect to get were we want to go without encountering complications.
Net Neutrality ensures that all users can access the content or run the applications and devices of their choice when they are using the Internet. With Net Neutrality, the network's only job is to move data -- not choose which data to privilege with higher quality service. Net Neutrality prevents the companies that control the wires from discriminating against content based on its source or ownership.
Net Neutrality is the reason why the Internet has driven economic innovation, democratic participation, and free speech online. It's why the Internet has become an unrivaled environment for open communications, civic involvement and free speech.
However, in recent years telecommunications corporations like Cox Cable and AT&T locally, and Version, Comcast, and Time-Warner nationally, have spent a lot of money trying to tell you that Net Neutrality will hurt you and that you should be opposed to this fight to keep the Internet a free and open exchange of ideas.
In the original development of the Internet, corporations like AT&T and Cox didn't spend a dime developing it. The Internet was developed with your tax dollars in the form of the U.S. military budget. But now these corporations want cash in on what they see as a cash cow by taxing content providers to guarantee speedy delivery of their data. They want to discriminate in favor of their own search engines, Internet phone services, and streaming video -- while slowing down or blocking their competitors.
These companies have a new vision for the Internet. Instead of an even playing field, they want to reserve express lanes for their own content and services -- or those from big corporations that can afford the steep tolls -- and leave the rest of us on a winding dirt road.
Small business owners need to especially pay attention to the Net Neutrality debate. In Kansas small businesses benefit from an Internet that allows them to compete directly -- not one where they can't afford the price of entry. Net Neutrality ensures that innovators can start small and dream big about being the next EBay or Google without facing insurmountable hurdles. Without Net Neutrality, start-ups and entrepreneurs will be muscled out of the marketplace by big corporations that pay for a top spot on the Web.
Before Congress took their August recess, Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) introduced the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009 (H.R. 3458) - legislation that has been years in the making. This landmark legislation would protect Net Neutrality under the Communications Act, safeguarding the future of the open Internet and protecting Internet users from discrimination online.
We need to tell our senators and representatives in Kansas to support equal access for all and co-sponsor HR 3458.
In the end it should be us - the consumers - who are in ultimate control of what we want on the Internet. We can decide between content, applications and services available anywhere, no matter who owns the network we are using to access the Internet. However, without Net Neutrality, the Internet will become nothing more than cable TV.
Remember the promises made in 1996 when Congress passed the Telecommunications Act? What we got is nothing like what we were promised. Television and radio have both suffered because corporations were put in charge of deciding content.
The same will happen to the Internet if network owners are allowed to decide which channels, content and applications are available; consumers will have to choose from their menu. Our choices will once again be dictated by corporate profit margins and we well all be short changed.
The Internet is too valuable for the life of our democracy to allow a repeat of 1996. We all must act to ensure HR 3458 becomes law.
Read full text of the bill here: http://www.freepress.net/files/H.R.3458-7-31-09.pdf