For me and most people I know, internet access is a basic requirement of modern life. It’s not an optional luxury, like cable TV (and I don’t want to hear how Game of Thrones is a necessity, too) or heated floors or a 24-hour doorman.
For me, internet access is right on par with electricity (in fact, internet access is one of the most important uses of electricity) and hot-and-cold running water. Like more and more people around the globe, I depend on fast, reliable internet access to do my job, stay in contact with my friends and family, keep up to date on the latest news and information, and run the day-to-day routines of life. I choose where to live and where and how to travel with one eye peeled for internet access, and I willingly pay a pretty penny every month for the fastest, best service I can find.
I don’t know about you, but if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’re in a situation much like mine. You spend an almost embarrassing amount of time online. And if you didn’t have good internet access, your life would be significantly less interesting and more difficult.
Everyone has the right to a fast and open internet
If that’s true for you, and for me, it’s no doubt true for most everyone else. And if we agree on that, don’t we also agree that everyone has the right to unfettered net access at a fair, affordable price? And if we agree on that, doesn’t it also follow that our rules and regulations covering the internet should help ensure that, and not reserve the best net access for only the folks with the most money and influence?
And, on the flip side, shouldn’t those regulations also help ensure that all the web content creators and online retailers and just plain citizens can use the internet to reach their audiences without some rich, connected competitor hogging the fast lanes and leaving only second-tier connections for everyone else?
I think so, which is why I believe last week’s appeals court decision upholding the FCC’s net neutrality rules make perfect sense. On June 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had the authority to classify broadband internet service as a utility, like electricity, subject to regulation for the public good.
Cranky telcos and ISPs vowed to fight the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court, and I have no doubt they will do that. But let me ask them one critical question: Are they willing to live without fast and affordable broadband internet service?
If the net is just a luxury, well then surely the net neutrality objectors would be willing to go without it if the telcos and ISPs didn’t happen to find it economic to deliver to them. And if they were running a business, they’d be fine if the one ISP in their area didn’t want to give fast access to their credit card verification service because the provider had a deal with a competitor. Similarly, they’d be perfectly fine if the telcos and ISPs wanted to slow down their content in favor of someone else’s words and pictures.
And if not, why are they so willing to let other folks do without?
That’s not how opponents frame the net neutrality argument, of course, but I believe that’s really what it comes down to.