MHS Students (Front L to R) Kaitlin Thomson, Gabby Scerbo, Sarah Marquis, (Back) Chase Ladd & Hank Latham

Net Neutrality is a term you’ve probably heard of before. Recently a post by the Federal Communications Commission, one of the big names of Net Neutrality, amassed 3 million comments, crashing their servers and making it one of the most commented posts in existence.

President Obama himself has stated that Net Neutrality is important to our generation and those succeeding it. Congress can’t seem to decide what to do about it, and as a result, bills regarding it are debated over fiercely.

If you’re like a lot of people, you don’t really know what Net Neutrality is, and don’t quite understand how it effects you.  It does affect you, and will have a larger and larger effect as time goes on and the world relies more and more heavily on the internet.

The big thing to understand about Net Neutrality is how the internet works, namely the difference between Content Providers and Service Providers.

Service Providers are the companies you pay in order to have internet access like Comcast and Verizon, and more locally, CenturyLink. Content Providers are websites and internet services like Netflix, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.

The Service Providers provide you with the means to access the content the Content Providers provide. To give an analogy, and content provider is like a store or a restaurant, and a service provider is a road or highway.

As it currently stands, service providers treat all internet traffic equally. This means that a video on YouTube will load just as fast as the same video on USA Today, your song on Spotify will load just as fast as Pandora, and Facebook will load just as fast as the Albemarle County Public Schools web page. It’s this equality that makes the internet the place of incredible growth and communication that it is.

Can you imagine where we would be if nobody used Yahoo, because AOL was too much faster? That idea may soon come to fruition. This is what Net Neutrality is all about.

Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) like Comcast and Verizon are trying to make deals with Content Providers like in which certain internet traffic would be made faster, and others made slower. To go back to our earlier analogy, it would be like saying that the speed limit was 55 M.P.H. if you’re going to McDonalds, but 35 M.P.H. if you’re going Marco and Luca’s.

How does this effect Charlottesville? In the same way it effects every community in the country. It makes it difficult if not impossible for startup companies to have a web presence, because traffic to their sites and services would be too slow.

For example, Relay Foods is a great service in our area where you can order groceries online, and drive to a location near you to pick them up. This company could be in danger if their internet traffic were so slow that it wasn’t worth it.

Foodify, previously known as Vmeals, is an online catering service that delivers local area foods to your event. Also a Charlottesville area business, it may not stand up to competition if its internet service, a crucial asset to them, was too slow.  

Silverchair Information Systems partners with businesses to create apps and technology to help them excel. There are lots of examples of Charlottesville businesses that need the internet to thrive, and the Net Neutrality debate is crucial for them. It affects us in the same way it is affecting the rest of the country.

If you are like us and believe that the internet should be a place of freedom and equality, and that internet speeds should be the same for every website, you can help out by leaving a comment with the FCC.

At FCC.gov there is a large blue button that says ‘Take Action’ where you can leave a comment with your thoughts and opinions. There are monthly Open Commission Meetings that you can watch live, and often popular topics will be discussed based on comments. You can read the FCC’s open internet policy and tell them how you feel. The FCC’s current plan claims to be net neutral but leaves plenty of loopholes.

There is also a bill in Congress: HR 196 “The Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act.” This bill contains the exact language needed to solve this problem and is currently being discussed in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. You can help out by contacting any members of the committee, or even contacting your local representative, because this bill will be in the house very soon.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Kaitlin Thomson, Gabby Scerbo, Sarah Marquis, Chase Ladd & Hank Latham are Seniors at Monticello High School

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