Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
In May, HBO comedian John Oliver opened his segment on net neutrality by saying, “The cable companies have figured out the great truth of America: If you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring.” He then delivered an incisive thirteen-minute monologue that was anything but boring, drawing more than 7 million views on YouTube. Indeed, as Oliver demonstrated so effectively, while net neutrality may seem like a dull subject, protecting it is essential to not only the future of the Internet but also the future of our democracy.
Net neutrality is, simply put, the fundamental principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. There are very few level playing fields in American life, but in a nation plagued by inequality, the Internet has remained open, free and fair—a powerful equalizing force that has allowed good ideas to flourish whether they came from a corporate board room or a college dorm room. This equality of opportunity is at the core of net neutrality. And it is under relentless attack by major telecommunications companies seeking yet another advantage to tighten their grip on the market.
This year, for example, Verizon challenged the regulations governing net neutrality in court—and won. In response, the FCC proposed an approach that would allow Internet service providers such as Comcast to charge websites a fee to deliver their content at higher speeds. The new rules would essentially create a two-tiered Internet—a “fast lane” for the rich, and a slow lane for everyone else.
Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.