Imagine two people in front of you. They both have something to say to you. The first one speaks in a really clear, loud voice without muttering at all while the other guy speaks painfully slowly. So slowly, in fact, that you cannot help but to listen to the guy with the loud clear tone.
Maybe you are more interested in what the slow dude wants to say. He seems to have something interesting to share. However, the first guy always gets to speak first. Sometimes you try and at least hear the second guy out, but get frustrated because it is just so much easier to listen to the first.
It is quite a no-brainer to guess which one of the two has more power. But still the question remains: why does the other guy have to try so hard while reaching out for you seems so natural and effortless for the first one?
Well: before addressing you, both men have to walk through a special machine. While inside, they are given a choice: pay one million dollars or we reduce the speed in which you speak the second you get out of this machine.
Without the machine, both men with their messages would be treated as equals before you. You could choose to listen to one and ignore the other, but it would be your decision to decide which one has a more interesting message to deliver.
But you don’t get to make those decisions anymore. The machine does that for you.
The two men don’t like this either. But they have no choice but to obey. And thus the one with more money always gets to you first.
This parable is the Net Neutrality debate in a nutshell. The two men represent content providers, or simply anything you want to watch, read or play in the Internet. The machine is your service provider, the one you pay for your Internet connection. Obviously, your hard-earned money is not enough for the service provider. If things start working the way they want them to, they can charge extra money from the parties who want to offer you their content or services online, be it Netflix, Spotify or worse still, a much smaller actor of whom you’ve never even heard of – and probably never will because their services will work so much slower that they’ll never make it in the market run by these media giants. Simply put, the ones who pay the service providers more money get to give you their stuff fast, while the ones who don’t… well, you’ll notice that their websites suddenly start working very slowly.
But you’ve paid for your Internet, so surely you as a customer have the right to choose which content you want to use with your high speed connection without delays or slowing down? The service providers don’t think so. They want to decide for you. Because they want an internet where the ones who have the most dough get to speak first.
Politically speaking: the Internet is one of the only places where everyone, at least theoretically speaking, has equal chances of getting their voices heard. If net neutrality disappears, the Internet will become a playground for only the big players, chosen by the telecommunications company people in black suits based on how much they are able to pay. The telecommunications companies, i.e. the machine between you and the two men, would become less “service providers” and more like a mafia controlling what part of the content you’ve requested gets to you fast and what does not.