For this reason alone net neutrality should be encouraged. In addition to the problem of restrictive nature of access tiering within a democratic society, such a system is problematic because it is inconsistent with America's image as a leader in the field of technology.
Opponents to Net Neutrality
For the most part, there are two sides to the debate on net neutrality (Yoo, 2005). On the one hand operators such as Verizon and AT&T, assert that growing demands associated with the internet necessitates a level of investment that can only be realized through the commercialization of the internet. Operators also assert that the commercialization must 'involve the ability to implement a "user pays" model for the use of their networks and, hence, the Internet; those who make high use of and profit from the Internet, should, the operators say, pay for that use (Ganley & Allgrove, 2006)." In other words, those that oppose net neutrality argue that the internet is changing and policies that govern pricing must also change. Opponents also argue that net neutrality must be abandoned so that they best quality service can be delivered to internet users. They believe that the absence of net neutrality will lead to an improvement in the information and services offered via the internet.
Proponents of Net Neutrality
At the other end of the spectrum it is argued that the issue of net neutrality is a more complex situation. Opponents of commercialization are content and service providers such as Yahoo, Ebay, Amazon and Google. Many of these groups assert that access tiering is a threat to the fundamental values of purpose of the internet. As such they believe that net neutrality should be embraced. In addition, those that believe that net neutrality serves an important purpose in maintaining a healthy democracy. They insist that there will be unintended consequences associated with the implementation of a policy that abandons net neutrality.
Now that an understanding of the positions that shape this debate have been presented, the discussion will focus on why net neutrality is needed. The analysis will also focus on why critics of net neutrality are incorrect in their assessments.
Why Net Neutrality is needed
There are three primary reasons why net neutrality is needed. These three reasons include unrestricted access to information, to prevent access charges and to discourage a duopoly from forming amongst a few large companies. In addition, restricted internet access may restrict the growth of broadband subscriptions and even wireless subscriptions in some instances. Restricting such growth will add to the technology gaps that already exist between those who can afford access to the internet and those who do not. Each of the aforementioned factors will be explored in the paragraphs to follow.
In conducting the research that will follow a plethora of scholarly journal articles and books were consulted. The journals used to research this topic included the International Journal of Communication and I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society. All of the research material were no more than five years old at the time that the research was conducted. Using the newest research possible was vitally important to formulating an opinion concerning the issue of net neutrality.
Research Methods Applied
A secondary research method was carried out for the purposes of this discussion. Secondary research methods rely on already published materials to form the basis of an argument or to draw conclusions. The secondary research method was chosen because it was most suitable and provided the widest range of information available on the topic of net neutrality.
Specific Findings & Analysis
Unrestricted access to Information
As it pertains to unrestricted access to information net neutrality is needed to guarantee that users have access to the information they need and want whenever they desire. The presence of net neutrality will guarantee that access to information will not be restricted just because a larger company does not prefer to send the information. Without unrestricted access to information people can be manipulated into accepting what they are told as it relates to every aspect of their lives. The free flow of information allows people to see and understand the social, political and economic conditions that affect their lives in a way that they can control.
One of the cornerstones of democratic societies is the absence of censorship. Censorship is defined as the act or system of practice suppressing, limiting, or deleting objectionable or any other kind of speech (Boler, 2008.) Within the context of a democracy censorship is frowned upon because freedom is governed by the ability get access to the information needed to make an informed decision. Boler (2008) further explains that "Freedom of speech is constitutionally enshrined in many liberal democratic states around the world, and it is one of the cornerstones of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19). The Internet has long been seen as providing a technological fortification for free speech. Citizens can publish their views to a worldwide audience, communicate in an unrestricted fashion with other citizens, and create new communities of interest (Boler, 2008 140).
Indeed for years the very structure of the internet has been governed by the free flow if information. Boler (2008) asserts that
"It has long been a conventional wisdom to believe that the Internet's material properties are biased toward openness, liberalization, democracy, freedom of speech, and communications. Its distributed architecture -- a "network of networks" without central control -- has been seen as a foundation for a global commons of information, a vehicle for the flourishing of transnational social movements, and a powerful force for democratization that authoritarian regimes worldwide could not resist. This conventional wisdom has, in turn, not only informed a vast array of development initiatives but global political theorizing as well. Underlying most of the many different theories of globalization and global civil society is an assumption about the "speed" and "global reach" of new information and communication technologies, and how these properties have begun to facilitate important changes in the architecture of world order away from a state-based toward a "network" society (Boler, 2008 137)."
Indeed, the freedom to surf the internet concerning various topics has led to the popularity of the internet. This popularity has greatly changed and improved the global landscape and the manner in which people from all over the world communicate with one another. Additionally, the internet has transformed the manner in which business is conducted and revolutionized many economies around the world. The impact of the internet on the business world is due to unrestricted access of information. That is, the internet allows users to explore different products and services that they may not have known was available save for the internet. As a result many different business opportunities have developed and entrepreneurs have taken advantage of these opportunities. In other words the internet has fueled innovation and created new business opportunities. In fact Marsden (2007) asserts that" If innovation is typically both user-distributed and user-driven, the implications are that innovation is encouraged by interoperability and open access: in general, ensuring that content can be freely shared between those users (Marsden 2007,419)."
Because access to information is so important, the need for net neutrality is evident. However, in recent years those from the security and commercial sectors have asserted that an access tiered structure for the internet is absolutely necessary if the internet is to remain secure and continue to improve. They also argue that the access tiering is just an aspect of the evolution that most forms of media encountering. In fact print, television and radio have all undergone certain transitions that led to increased regulation. They argue that "As new information and communication technologies move from the margins to permeate society, economics, and politics, the stakes become much higher and authorities -- both public and private -- take more of an active interest in how media are designed and secured. Today's Internet is no exception."
Although it is true that all forms of media have undergone a period of regulation, it could be argued that these regulations did not necessarily make these forms of communication better (Boler, 2008). In fact, lessons learned form the regulations to radio, television and print are evidence that such regulations have increasingly stripped away certain freedoms of expression. For instance, at the current time in America there are just a few owners of all the most prevalent forms of media. Most radio stations are owned by Clear Channel. Many television stations are owned by Viacom. In addition in some instances, the same companies that own television also own print media. As a result the information that is presented to the public is often not objective; instead it holds biases that are consistent with that of its owners. As such the public is not presented with a free flow if information. In fact, the…