Popular Science (by way of CNN) has a good article breaking down the net neutrality debate into digestable terms. I favor net neutrality, and will try to sum up why as concisely as possible:
The Internet, as it exists, provides a platform where small start-ups and individuals' ability to communicate with customers is equal to that of massive corporations. This equal access to the pipe has led to countless innovations that never could have happened had the Internet been the domain of just a few well-heeled corporations and individuals. For example, most open source software projects would have a tough time surviving in the new tiered model. Blogs and podcasts likely would never have been invented had the Internet been tiered.
Individuals and small companies can compete directly with large corporations as they've never been able to before. And that scares the large corporations shitless, because they'll actually have to work to maintain their market share. The media industry is a good microcosm of how all the competition will work in the coming years with a neutral Internet. Only those outlets that work extra hard will survive, which will lead to better products all around.
The questions that need to be answered are whether:
- Small businesses and individuals' interests — spanning a massive range of industries and ideological beliefs — are more or less important than the interests of the telecos and large corporations who can afford to pay for premium access in a tiered system
- The innovations that come from an equal-access system outweigh the interests of the telecos' ability to charge more for access
- A tiered system would put the United States at a competitive disadvantage when compared to other countries that choose not to adopt a tiered access system
In all cases, I say yes. You may disagree, but I think a tiered access system would lead to the death of American innovation. India and China are already kicking our asses, and there are many, many more countries with up-and-coming economies anxious to take a shot at us. Pulling the plug on the equally-accessible Internet would give them a massive advantage.