Introduction to Literary Studies
3 December 2014
Let Freedom Ping The Internet is an integral part of the modern world. With it people have a wealth of knowledge and efficient communication at their fingertips, connecting individuals across the globe. When the World Wide Web was in its infancy the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an American government agency responsible for regulating the Internet and other forms of communication, decided that all data on the Net should be treated equally ("The Open Internet”). This proclamation meant that big and small websites should be equally accessible, making the Net a neutral space. Net Neutrality promotes innovation and Americans’ right to free speech as it gives an equal platform for launching products and voicing opinions. Unfortunately, the right to access an unbiased and open Internet is under attack, all for the financial gain of large companies. Big-name Internet service providers (ISPs) such as Comcast and AT&T give higher priority to wealthier websites over small independent sites, and can require customers to pay extra to access certain sites. The purpose of Net Neutrality is to remove this information bias and reduce costs for small businesses. If Americans don't stand up against ISPs, the freedom and ease of access that has made the Internet extraordinary will be gone. Since its creation in 1989 ("History of the Web"), the World Wide Web has had a positive impact on innovation and job creation in the United States. Over the past decade or so, Internet usage has grown considerably. In 1997, only 18 percent of American households had access to the Web. As of 2012, 74.8 percent of households have Internet access ("Computer & Internet Trends in America”). This increase raises the stakes in the battle for Net Neutrality, as it affects most Americans. As Internet use, innovation, and profits grow, the need for the Net to be open grows as well.
The Internet has created a variety of different careers, with people finding work in Web and application design, blogging, selling products online, and more. A study from 2009 by the Internet Advertising Bureau shows that “over the last decade or so the Internet has created 1.2 million jobs” (Thibodeau). The same study revealed that “Internet business contributes 2.1%, or $300 billion, to the total GDP (gross domestic product) of the U.S.” (Thibodeau). The livelihood of companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and a large number of small businesses depend on the Internet to reach customers. The Internet also gives small businesses the ability to reach clients almost everywhere. With net neutrality, small and big businesses alike have the opportunity to reach the same customers. With access to the Internet, widespread innovation and education becomes a much easier task. Sites such as Khan Academy and TED give anyone an opportunity to study a wide range of topics from math to economics. People with Internet access can upload information as well as view it. Through blogs and video content, individuals are able to make their voices heard on important topics. Examples of the impact of outspokenness over the Web are the Arab Spring protests in the Middle East. Using social media to organize protests and inform the world about their struggles, the protesters were able to make a difference, with “the overthrow of two presidents” (Omidyar). A neutral Internet allows individuals to make an impact on a socioeconomic scale, an impact that would be lost without neutrality. Despite the advantages of an unhindered Net, many individuals believe neutrality is not the best course for the Internet. One common argument against neutrality is that ISPs are better equipped to remove illegal materials, such as pirated songs and leaked government information, than the FCC (Wasserman). While ISPs may have more manpower and time to vet information on the Web, as the FCC also monitors services like television and