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Suppose you had highways that only people with really fast cars could use. It would be great for those who owned fast cars, but everyone else would get left behind.
Essentially, that’s what the Net neutrality debate is about: Should all data flow equally over the Internet? The discussion has continued for years now, and though it’s easy to tune it out after all this time, here’s why it’s still important.
Why Net Neutrality Matters to You
It’s something that any small business using the Internet needs to pay attention to. If the Net becomes un-neutral, our data is likely to be the less-fancy cars relegated to the slow back roads, while the Amazons and Googles of the world zip along on the super-highways. And if you’re a retail site, any time the Internet slows down, it leads directly to dollars lost.
In our case, we provide recommendation-engine software that’s hosted on the Web. So when you’re shopping for books in the Scholastic bookstore, which is one of our customers, the rest of the page might be loaded from the Scholastic servers, but the box that says something like “Customers like you bought this,” loads from our servers. That information has to be rendered at the same speed as that from the retailer -- if that box stays blank while the rest of the page loads, it’s doing nobody any good.
Net Neutrality Spurs Innovation
What’s always been great about the Internet is that anyone can start a new company by literally just attaching a computer to the Internet. And -- boom! -- you can start selling books right away. But if your site loads more slowly than Amazon’s, then that’s a plus for Amazon -- but it winds up hampering precisely the kind of innovation that led to companies like Amazon and Google in the first place.
And I believe that’s what will eventually happen without Net neutrality legislation. Some data will start getting parceled off and left behind, like the cars on the slower roads. It may not have a big effect on day one, but the things left behind would start to accumulate, and in time we will have a slow quashing of what the Internet was supposed to be -- resilient and open, with no one having too much control.
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