If you have political opinions, net neutrality benefits you. It doesn't matter how staunchly you support conservative or liberal ideas — net neutrality ensures that you can find information about the issues you want to know about.
Net neutrality is under attack, and it needs heroes on both sides of the aisle.
This past week, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai relased a draft of a plan that would effectively kill net neutrality as we know it. According to the draft, it would remove regulations that keep internet service providers from charging more money for speedier access and blocking services they don't like. The plan would also delete several consumer protections such as privacy requirements and avenues to complain about price gouging.
It's a bad plan that removes power from consumers. But the plan stands a good chance of getting enacted during the FCC's next meeting in December, and that should terrify anyone who uses the internet.
In a nutshell: Net neutrality is the idea that people should be able to access whatever they want and use whatever services they choose on the internet, no matter what they want to do. While President George W. Bush's administration supported that principle, it wasn't able to get written into regulations until 2015.
That means if a consumer wants to watch back episodes of TV shows, they can choose between Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime or others. People who make videos are free to share them to YouTube, Vimeo or another platform, and if they want to share their creations on social networks, they have their choice of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or others.
But the internet has evolved past entertainment and creative purposes. Our smartphones are loaded with assorted emergency notifications from weather updates to Amber Alerts, and social networks have immense power to inform users about current events.
The internet has reached utility status. We think internet is as necessary to living as power, water and gas.
But Pai's plan reverses those 2015 regulations and changes the internet into a paid service as trivial as buying a movie ticket.
In releasing the plan, Pai said it is needed to eliminate unnecessary regulation. However, the actions of internet service providers debunk Pai's claim rather boldly. AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and others have all limited access in various ways.
We can't put too fine a point on this: Net neutrality is absolutely necessary for a free, informed society. It doesn't matter how you use the internet, whether you dive into the red and blue sides of political issues, or join the red team or blue team for a few "Halo" matches.
We encourage calls or letters to Missouri's representatives in Congress — politicians need to be involved because net neutrality is about so much more than politics. In an era of politicians campaigning and fighting for local control of everything from education to health care, the FCC's draft for reversing net neutrality puts too much power over a critical communication service into the hands of corporations.