What is net neutrality?
Net neutrality means that web traffic is equal to all consumers on all platforms. In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission put net neutrality into action by passing a set of rules in order to regulate the internet. In a nutshell, its goal was to level the playing field to “protect and promote an open internet,” by ensuring that all locations on the internet are delivered through equal speed, as explained in the 2016 net neutrality policy statement.
Give me an example.
Hypothetically, say a consumer uses the Internet Service Provider AT&T and the video streaming service Netflix. But Hulu, a different video streaming company, approaches AT&T and strikes a deal that AT&T will “favor” consumer connection to Hulu if they pay an allotted amount of money. Favoring would make videos on Hulu stream faster than videos on Netflix. AT&T, being an ISP, holds the ability to block or slow certain broadband connections to any website or online platform. The idea is to push consumers in the direction of the “favored” company by giving money to an ISP to slow connection on competing sites. Net neutrality regulates the money motive and restricts this exchange between ISPs and online companies.
Why am I hearing so much about it now?
On Nov. 21, current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai unveiled the plan to repeal net neutrality. The vote to repeal or continue with net neutrality is scheduled for Dec. 14. The new plan would allow for paid internet fast lanes and selective throttling, but would require ISPs to inform their consumers of said actions.
Those who favor net neutrality say that getting rid of it would grant too much power to already powerful monopolies. In addition, it could potentially suppress small businesses by favoring already dominant businesses and allowing ISPs to regulate what consumers see and do online. OpenInter.net highlights the concern that repealing net neutrality, opens the door for a potentially more divided internet ecosystem where consumers would have to pay separate fees for access to everything on the internet (social media, YouTube, etc.)
“It ain’t broke, so why fix it?” said former Democratic chairman of the FCC Julius Genachowski to the The New York Times. “The core rules of no blocking, no discrimination and transparency have worked to create an ecosystem of innovation and investment that’s the envy of the rest of the world.”
Those against net neutrality say that it keeps the government “micromanaging the internet,” according to Pai. People like Josh Steimle of Forbes magazine argue that it also discourages investment, suppresses large businesses by leveling the playing field and limits freedom and privacy.
“We applaud the Chairman’s efforts to repeal the ill-advised and outdated burden of Title II classification, which has harmed broadband investment and innovation,” said Comcast in a blog post last week.
The proposal is expected to pass as Republicans currently dominate the scheduled vote 3-2. Protests and petitions are in full-throttle across the nation regarding the proposal.