|By Salvatore Angotti and Nathan Tauger, Morgantown|
On July 12, Netflix, Amazon, Twitter and dozens of other websites protested to protect net neutrality, the principle that internet service providers should provide access to content and applications regardless of the content’s source, without favoring or blocking products or websites. This internet-wide day of action is meant to combat special interests and keep the internet fair.
Many cable TV providers are also internet service providers. Without net neutrality, these companies can charge for “fast lanes” to certain websites. Comcast could slow down its customers’ connection speeds to competitor Netflix, or charge more for its customers to use Netflix, while giving cheaper and faster access to Comcast services NBC and Hulu.
Imagine if General Motors controlled lanes on the highway and set two speed limits: one for GM cars and one for everyone else. Don’t have a GM car? Go slow or pay up.
Former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, a cable-industry lobbyist, almost ended net neutrality until public outcry stopped him. President Donald Trump made a former Verizon lawyer, Ajit Pai, head of the FCC. Pai plans to end net neutrality.
Big Cable calls net neutrality government meddling but, in fact, net neutrality allows the internet to run on free-market principles. Without net neutrality, large providers could extort small businesses while discouraging competition.
West Virginia’s rural communities have much to lose from a repeal of net neutrality. Areas with just one ISP would be at the whim of monopolies — internet providers that act like the company store.
Net neutrality is not a partisan issue. It is monopolistic special interests against those of us who want the internet to remain a place for self-starters and free expression. Open internet access is key to West Virginia’s economic future. Do our elected representatives agree?