By Ev Ehrlich
Google, Facebook and dozens of major internet companies joined forces last week for a “Day of Action” to rally support for “net neutrality.” That’s the idea that everything on the internet—email, e-commerce transactions, cat videos and so forth—must travel at the same speed and under the same conditions. This latest stir-up comes as the Federal Communications Commission is moving to overturn large parts of the Obama administration’s 2015 net-neutrality policy.
Both sides, including broadband providers, agree that no one should selectively block websites or chop the internet into fast and slow lanes. But lost in the debate is that companies like Google and Amazon, which cry out in favor of a neutral web, are virtual monopolies built on the same practice of prioritizing that they publicly decry.
Since the birth of broadband, net neutrality’s cheerleaders have feared that service providers might begin to act as the internet’s “gatekeepers,” undermining its inherent free-for-all character. But cyberspace’s dirty secret is that the gatekeepers aren’t the broadband providers lampooned by the likes of John Oliver. The real distortions come from massive “platform monopolies” like Google, Facebook and Amazon, whose proprietary algorithms decide what users see online.