Ask yourself one question: What's to stop your Internet Service Provider (ISP) — such as Time Warner, Comcast, etc — from starting its own search engine services, and then blocking your access to Google so that you are forced to use the search engine they provide?
Is there anything out there that prevents that? A law or something?
It's not an abstract question. The issue of "net neutrality" — the notion that anyone on the Internet can access anything on the Internet — is fundamental to the very idea of the Internet. We assume that the Internet is neutral, simply because it always has been. But there's no reason why it has to stay that way, and net neutrality is facing some serious threats.
The issue centered around ISP Comcast. Comcast, in 2007, banned its user from using an online file-sharing service called BitTorrent, which allows users to swap big files such as movies over the Internet.
The FCC stepped in and tried to stop that. Comcast challenged the FCC ruling, saying that the FCC had no control over broadband services.
Today, a federal appeals court ruled that the FCC lacks authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic flowing over their networks. This has far-reaching implications, including my hypothetical question at the top of this post. Unless something changes, the simple fact of the matter is that NOTHING (now) can stop an ISP from blocking certain Internet sites and/or forcing you to visit only the sites that they want you to.
This is becoming another left-right debate, with the left arguing for government regulation and oversight of the Internet (to make sure it remains neutral). The right, of course, calls this "marxism" — a rather stupid thing to say, because that means that the Internet as we know it now is "marxist" (did you know that)?
Glenn Beck is even arguing that government regulation of the Internet — to make sure it stay open and neutral — violates free speech. That's right — it violates the free speech of corporations like Comcast who want to limit what you can see on the Internet. That has to be the most perverted notion of free speech for "we the people" that I have ever heard. But there he is, making that argument. One wonders what he might be saying if ISPs started blocking access to Fox News.