Mar 05

Net neutrality is crucial issue for millennials


Twenty-four-year-old Lance Capitano of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is one of a growing number of millennial upstarts looking to strike gold from developing an innovative smartphone application.

“Its called Squad Up,” says Capitano. “It’s an app that will bring hoopers (basketball players) together to play the game and meet people. It’s a social app.”

One of the greatest advantages millennials have compared with previous generations is the ability to access heaps of information at any given time. Whether by phone, tablet or laptop, sharing content is more intuitive to younger users, who are capable of connecting to people throughout the world. This connectivity has allowed young entrepreneurs to capitalize, creatively and financially, from the platform without adhering to conventional standards of previous generations.

But potential anti-net neutrality laws could thwart millennial upstarts like Capitano and strip away what some say is an essential part of the Internet.

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers should keep access to the Internet and its content open without favoring a particular product or website. It prevents ISPs such as Verizon Wireless, Comcast and AT&T from dictating what content is permitted on their servers or the content’s download speed. This allows the Internet to be regulated equally and prevents providers from having an uneven amount of power.

However, ISPs are beginning to discover crafty ways of blurring the lines between what is and what isn’t a violation of net neutrality, and this could have a serious impact on small startups.

“The Internet is great because it allows anyone to launch a business at any time,” says Karl Bode, editor of DSL Reports, a website dedicated to sharing news and technological information. “If you truly appreciate free markets, then you would want net neutrality, because it gives everyone an equal shot.”

One example is the Verizon Wireless application Go90, This video streaming app allows users to stream video content on their phones without the data counting against their monthly cap. Some argue this plan is a violation of net neutrality laws, as Verizon customers are more likely to use the Go90 service as opposed to Netflix or Hulu, since using the two apps would result in more data being used. Some say this gives the service providers an unfair advantage and grants them the upper hand over content providers.

“This dismantles what has made the Internet great,” says Bode.

The advantage given to ISPs in regards to net neutrality violations may stem from a basic misunderstanding of what net neutrality really is.

“Honestly I don’t even know (what net neutrality is),” says Capitano.

And it’s not just young Americans who are unaware, as many politicians seem to be confused about the subject as well. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has likened net neutrality to Obamacare, and Donald Trump has said it shares similarities with the Fairness Doctrine of 1949. Meanwhile, former candidate Jeb Bush has compared it to the Communications Act of 1934, and Marco Rubio has written he believes service providers having different speed lanes “is not the injustice that it is made out to be.”

Caroline Craig, site editor for Infoworld, a website specializing in enterprise technology, says she understands how important threats against net neutrality are for millennials and how the spread of misinformation, intentional or unintentional, could potentially determine whether or not the Internet as they know it will change forever.

“It’s a case where politicians are not really listening to their constituents; they seem to be listening more to the lobbying dollars of cable companies,” she says. “I believe it is dangerous especially for millennials, because they recognize how vital the Internet is to all aspects of our lives.”

However, Craig does believe there are some candidates who fight for the issue.

“Bernie Sanders has always been a big advocate of (net neutrality),” she says. “He sees the Internet as vital to the free discourse of ideas. Hillary Clinton has also said she supports the net neutrality rules.”

For millennial entrepreneurs in an election year, there are many issues to contemplate that will impact their future, from health care to civil rights to wage equality. It may be time to add net neutrality to that list as well.

“That may spark some controversy among small businesses,” says Capitano. “I definitely need to do my research more.”

Source: Net neutrality is crucial issue for millennials

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