On Monday, President Obama announced that “a free and open Internet was as critical to Americans’ lives as electricity and telephone service” and should be regulated as such. This approach, called net neutrality, will prevent companies from slowing down certain content and allowing companies to pay for a fast lane to get data to consumers. If a fast lane is used, that means that only certain types of websites with large funds will be easily accessible to the public. The debate over net neutrality and an open Internet could be about whether Internet access is considered a necessary service.
In today’s society, with so much being done online, it certainly seems like the Internet is necessary. However, the Federal Communications Commission’s last rules on net neutrality were struck down in January, and now the commission has to create a new set of rules. Internet providers are protesting against net neutrality due to the effect it will have on their profits; companies like Netflix have voiced their support. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has spoken in favor of net neutrality, but has not confirmed that he will take the action that the president has recommended. Some people have argued that regulating the Internet like a utility will actually kill the Internet rather than make it more accessible. Net neutrality laws have been successfully challenged by big companies before, and they could be challenged again. Legal problems may prevent net neutrality laws from ever being established or actually enforced.
Is it ethical to regulate Internet access like a utility? Should we have an open Internet, or is it acceptable for companies to allow a special fast lane and pick content to make more accessible?