The F.C.C. voted yesterday to approve net neutrality, basically making the internet a public utility, not unlike the rest of telecommunications in the United States. Upyernoz has a concise explanation of what net neutrality is, how it works, and why there’s any controversy about it.
A phrase that I remember from a class I took a long time ago on the history of broadcasting was that a utility such as the telephone company and broadcast networks must operate in the “public interest, convenience, and necessity.” The internet is no longer a luxury or a curiosity. Just about everything we do in our daily lives has some element of connectivity to it, and we’ve become as dependent on it was we have of the electric power grid or water system.
That means that the people who provide the service need to remember they have a duty to operate in the public interest, convenience, and necessity, and if it makes their profit margin a little tighter or they can’t screw over someone for wanting to watch House of Cards instead of something they own a stake in, that’s what comes with being indispensable.
History reminds us that the phone companies fought the designation of their service as a utility back in their infancy, as did the radio broadcasting networks, who were fighting with the newspapers over their right to broadcast the news. Somehow American Telephone & Telegraph survived, as did the National Broadcasting Company and the Columbia Broadcasting System, and so will Comcast and Time Warner.