Web sites shouldn’t compete for speed

Story by Nick Gourdoux

Posted at 11:00 a.m. 2/6/10

The internet is a marvelous world full of information, research tools and Lolcats. The internet is probably the first place college-age students go to when they want to research a topic for a paper, check in on how their friend studying abroad in France is doing, or for a quick laugh. That could all change, however, if legislation limiting net neutrality is passed.

Currently all Web sites exist on a level playing field. Whether you want to go to Google.com or Isitchristmas.com should not matter. All Web sites, assuming their servers are equal, should load at the same speed. Internet providers currently are not allowed to give preferential treatment to certain sites. That is precisely what the net neutrality debate is about.

If companies are allowed to make certain Web sites load faster than others, they can charge companies for those services. Imagine if Yahoo.com loaded faster than google.com. Which one would you use? Probably the one that loads faster. Google, then, is losing site visitors to Yahoo and is therefore losing out on money simply because Yahoo basically bribed the Internet providers.

What if that happened on a local level? Imagine if Volume One paid for faster internet service than the Leader-Telegram. As print journalism quickly switches to the online world, the Leader-Telegram would begin hemorrhaging readers and would probably struggle to survive.

These horrible, unfair situations could become reality in the not-too-distant future too. According to Savetheinternet.com, major telephone and cable companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to lobby congress and the FCC to gut current net neutrality policies.

The idea of this tiered Internet that gives preferential treatment to the few successful internet corporations capable of paying for better access speeds isn’t just a dooms-day scenario dreamt up by paranoid internet enthusiasts, either.

According to a 2005 article in the Washington Post, William L. Smith, chief technology officer for Atlanta-based BellSouth Corp., “told reporters and analysts that an Internet service provider such as his firm should be able, for example, to charge Yahoo Inc. for the opportunity to have its search site load faster than that of Google Inc.”

The internet is perhaps the best current example of pure capitalism. If a Web site can’t draw in enough visitors to survive it will quickly fade into obscurity and before long disappear. Yes, the internet is currently dominated by a select few super successful Web sites like Google and Facebook, but it has its share of rags to riches stories too – DrudgeReport.com and Collegehumor.com come to mind. Web sites are constantly evolving to keep their visitors entertained, which results in better products for the site’s visitors.

Allowing Internet providers to infringe on current net neutrality would create an unfair advantage towards currently popular Web sites and, in effect, gradually censor the Internet. The Internet is probably what our generation will be best defined by, so let’s do our part to help keep it as it is. Go to Savetheinternet.com to learn more, sign their petition and most importantly, refuse to allow them to ruin the internet.