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By Gina Channell Wilcox

Bandwidth and the spinning wheel: Net neutrality

Uploaded: Sep 10, 2014

Have you seen it? As you've been perusing your favorite websites today, have you noticed the "spinning wheel of doom?"

Today is "Internet Slowdown Day," initiated by "Team Internet" to protest proposed changes to net neutrality rules. The "spinning wheel" is being used on websites such as Netflix, Etsy and Foursquare and others that formed Team Internet. These advocates of net neutrality are hoping users will learn about what net neutrality is and how it will affect them. Then maybe those users will to to the Battle for the Net website where they can sign a letter to Congress, the Federal Communications Commission and the White House before the public comment period ends on Sept. 15.

Net neutrality in the most basic terms is keeping the Internet speed the same for everyone. Opponents of net neutrality want to charge for bandwidth, which is like the pipeline for data, and say that the funding is necessary to continue developing new and improved services. However, without net neutrality, services we get without a fee now will not work as well, if at all, because as Michael Weinberg, vice president at the digital advocacy group Public Knowledge, put it, those who don't pay won't be in the ISP's "fast lane."

Another consequence is that some businesses have to use a lot of bandwidth, like Netflix when it streams movies. These companies would have to pay the ISP's more to have the bandwidth to run the business. Who do you think will eventually end of paying those fees? Will they be "passed along to the consumer?" My guess is yes.

This will also create a further "digital divide" between higher and lower socio-economic groups. Not only will people have to pay for hardware and an Internet connection, but they will have to pay for bandwidth for speed, which means that some services won't even be available to them. Do you or anyone in your household watch videotaped school board or city council meetings on CCTV or TV30? YouTube videos of cute kids or kittens? Those use a lot of bandwidth.

TechCrunch has a good article that explains both sides. I encourage you to become educated about this because one way or another it will have long-term effects.