Is “net neutrality” a boon or a curse for American consumers?

Cartwright-I’m not worried about it. There is plenty of competition in the market and if it becomes a problem more competitors will spring up. The cost of switching from one provider to another is relatively low, so if your current provider starts charging you for access to Google you’ll probably find a provider who doesn’t. If all the providers get on the same page, some new competitor will pop up with no fees or charges. Take a look at what happened in the cell phone industry and the effects of competition. Most providers used to give you so many minutes and then charge for extra and charge for text service, etc. T-Mobile came along and disrupted the industry by offering an unlimited plan. Who won out? In my opinion, the consumers did.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-There has been no end of brouhaha and hand wringing over the end of “Net Neutrality” promised by recent changes in federal law. The circuit board-loving set would have us believe that soon we’ll be beset by fees and hidden charges for using everything from Google to Netflix to Facebook depending on which service provider we have. What they miss is that the internet is the Great Democratizer, which has brought the mighty low since the day the first email was sent.

There are simply too many service providers, too many websites and too many content providers extant for any feasibly evil plan to construct some sort of Machiavellian fee schedule to charge us for access to all of them. Yes, there will inevitably be efforts to make it more expensive to, say, watch 12 hours of Hulu on your laptop. You might be dinged some sort of service fee for your 24-hour online gaming marathon. But I don’t see those things becoming widespread, and I see the waters eventually calming and the attempts to “fee-up” the internet going the way of MySpace and Friendster.

Of course, I may be wrong. Maybe we’ll all end up paying to go outside of a certain umbrella of sites approved by our service providers. Just in case, I think I’ll go download all the solitaire programs I can now.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-American consumers rely heavily on the internet. Many use it for leisure, others use it to earn a living or keep in touch with loved ones, and to exercise their freeness of speech.

All of this is possible because of net neutrality. The fact that it avails so many things to Americans make it a boon, rather than a curse.

Without net neutrality, consumers would be restricted to content they’d otherwise have no issues accessing. They would potentially need to pay to have access to certain areas of the Internet and faster speeds to access things quickly.

Internet service providers would now have the power and backing to wield a stick, so to speak, above the heads of consumers. The disadvantages are endless.

Net neutrality does create an equal playing field for consumers to enjoy free content.

We can think about those who use the internet to earn a living. Because of their internet access, many companies and smaller businesses have made billions. With their innovations being protected, this allow freelancers to earn a living comfortably or companies to offer information in a way that best suits them.

Net neutrality does help improve communication. With various social media platforms, many consumers can communicate freely via instant messaging, voice, and video calls. With these tools, it breathes life into communication and make it efficient.

Life without net neutrality would be unproductive and unfair to many. It would be more of a curse than a blessing.

Without net neutrality in place, those who don’t have the spending power will be restricted in their Internet usage.

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-The phrase “net neutrality” is one of the most confusing topics I have ever come across either as a commentator or as a consumer of internet access. The phrase itself is ambiguous. On the one hand, neutrality implies idling or doing nothing. This could be interpreted to mean “The internet is fine the way it is. Don’t make changes.” Another definition means not taking sides, sitting on the fence. This conjures an image of Switzerland, a fiercely neutral nation for centuries, that doesn’t try to control or contain misbehavior by other countries (wars), even though the outcomes of those wars were usually only the rich and powerful nations survived and prospered.

My understanding is that the current policy in the U.S., which was just approved by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), rolls back Obama-era policies that enforced equal access to all internet users regardless of the amount of money or power an entity might try to wield. Going forward, we’ll have a multi-tiered pricing system whereby faster internet speeds cost more than slower speeds. This seems reasonable and fair considering most of us are willing to pay more for any product that is faster, better, easier, or more convenient.

The catch comes when we look at pricing models like this in other industries. Air travel and cable TV service leap to mind. Before airline deregulation, air travel was strictly regulated. Fares were high, but service was uniformly excellent, and seats were quite comfortable. Before cable TV was developed, a handful of networks controlled what the nation could view on TV and when they could view it. But the direct cost to the user was zero since advertisers paid for the broadcast.

Today, with deregulated airline we have inexpensive fares coupled with multiple levels of seating and other amenities that are dynamically priced. But we also have cramped seating, overbooked flights, long delays due to weather, traffic, and security concerns, and crowded skies. Cable TV brought us the iconic “500 channels to watch, twenty-four-seven,” tiered pricing that charges more for premium channels, and bundled groups of channels into packages with no ala carte options to buy specific individual channels. Additionally, competition has dwindled or been intentionally removed, which created monopolies and captive audiences in most markets, which allow arbitrary price increases with no comparable rise in quality or service.

Since both tight regulation and deregulation have positives as well as negatives, it seems that the best course for deciding how to run the internet is to apply reasonable regulation that keeps costs as low as possible while at the same time guarantees sufficient access to all customers, large or small. Part boon, part curse, we could call it “Net Neutrality Lite.” Think of that policy as akin to Switzerland staying neutral ninety-five percent of the time and only occasionally getting off the fence just long enough to figuratively rap the knuckles of a misbehaving nation with a steel ruler.

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