View Mobile Site

Ask the Expert

Signal Photos


Nathan Imhoff: Help keep the Internet free

SCV Voices

Posted: March 12, 2010 10:24 p.m.
Updated: March 13, 2010 4:55 a.m.
"Information is the oxygen of the modern age. It seeps through the walls topped by barbed wire, it wafts across the electrified borders."
- Ronald Reagan

Long before there was Google, Twitter, Facebook, Napster, a dot-com bubble and even Al Gore claiming to have created the Internet, there were a couple of smart guys with a crazy idea of connecting a few computers, which at the time were the size of an average-sized living room.

The first data packets were sent from the University of California, Los Angeles, to Stanford Research Institute on Oct. 29, 1969, and voilà - the Internet was born!

Unfortunately, it wasn't user-friendly and it took years of headache and development to come up with the Internet we all know and love today. Even my parents, who have about a 3.5-second attention span when I talk Internet jargon, could feasibly create their own blog with pictures of their grandchildren in less than an hour. Never in the history of mankind have people had such power at their fingertips.

During the Internet's early development, its backbone was funded by the government and largely used by various government organizations, along with educational and research institutions. Commercial uses on that backbone were mostly prohibited, with a few rare exceptions.

But the free market couldn't be held back, and eventually commercial servers and Internet Service Providers (ISP) sprung up, leading to the dot-com bubble. During that time, anyone with a few dollars and a good idea could have become a millionaire overnight.

It is hard for me to remember life without the Internet. I have become more and more reliant on the Internet as my sole source of news, entertainment and much of my communication over the years. I eventually got rid of my DIRECTV altogether and the only thing I really miss is the History Channel.

I say all this to warn of a pending storm that could jeopardize the Internet on which we have come to depend. We as a society could potentially lose Net neutrality, a concept that has been a part of the Internet from its inception.

Net Neutrality means all data flowing through the Internet is equal. This means a person's e-mail or online banking get the same network bandwidth and priority as the most ridiculous forwarded viral internet video. The computers and networks that run the Internet do not show bandwidth preferential treatment for a site like while throttling down bandwidth on my parents' blog of their grandchildren.

After Comcast allegedly began to hinder Internet telephone or Voice Over IP (VOIP) services like Skype and Vonage, the company, according to an article in The Orange County Register, attempted to curb file sharing by initiating a download limit that could result in a customer losing his or her Internet subscription.

The FCC stepped in to protect the rights of the consumers and initiate regulations to ensure all consumers have access to an unhindered Internet. This is important for Internet users, since the top five Internet providers control almost 60 percent of Internet subscribers' accounts in the United States.

Four of those five are public-utility companies that have a vested interest in hindering services like Hulu and Skype, which are free Internet alternatives to services they provide.

Unfortunately for us little guys, the public-utility companies aren't taking this lying down. They began campaigning using disinformation and playing on public ignorance in an attempt to stir up knee-jerk reactions from scary words like "government regulation" or attributing net neutrality as some kind of socialist plot.

They even got tech-savvy John McCain to introduce a clever but misleadingly titled bill called "Freedom of Internet Act 2009," which would give this handful of big utility companies - which already enjoy many antitrust exemptions - almost unchecked power to control consumer Internet use.

Net neutrality is essential because it ensures a company like Time Warner (owner of CNN) or Comcast (owner of MSNBC) can't throttle back bandwidth to their competition - say,

Net neutrality isn't about government regulating the Internet but about regulating the large companies controlling our gateway to all the wonders of the World Wide Web. Don't let the big utilities turn this into a Democrat versus Republican issue, either. This should be a bipartisan no-brainer. When have the National Organization of Woman and the Christian Coalition of America ever been on the same page on any issue? They are on the same page when it comes to Net neutrality.

Whether you are a liberal feminist or a Christian homeschooling mother, Net neutrality should matter to everyone.

Let me encourage everyone to log on to and join the 1.7 million people who have already signed the petition to Congress saying we want to keep the Internet free.

Nathan Imhoff is a Newhall resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


Commenting not available.
Commenting is not available.


Powered By
Morris Technology
Please wait ...