The COVID-19 Pandemic Shows the Virtues of Net Neutrality
Despite the crush of internet traffic, network speeds are holding up
NET NEUTRALITY—THE IDEA that internet service providers should treat all traffic equally—might seem quaint during the COVID-19 pandemic. Internet traffic is surging, so why not tap the brakes on entertainment or porn to make sure people can access schoolwork, health care information, and apply for unemployment?
But who should decide which internet services deserve special treatment? Maybe Zoom and other video conferencing apps should get priority, since they’re used for remote work, telehealth, and education. But people also use them for socializing and games. Or maybe providers should throttle streaming video services like Netflix and YouTube. But those services can be used in education too, not to mention keeping up with current events.
Rather than rendering net neutrality obsolete, the COVID-19 crisis reminds us why it’s such an important principle. More people than ever rely on the internet, and they should be free to choose the video conferencing tools, education sites, or entertainment they want, rather than let broadband providers decide for them—or sell priority to the highest bidder. The crisis shows that even in dire circumstances, internet companies can provide a neutral network.
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