Net neutrality is currently a hot topic and it’s a subject that will continue to remain front and center for the immediate future.
The regulation, called Title II Net Neutrality Rules, has always been a contentious one. Since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted on Dec. 14, 2017, to repeal it, the issue has become even more controversial.
Net neutrality in a nutshell
Net neutrality is a complicated issue. In essence, it’s an FCC-imposed regulation passed in 2015 that reclassified the internet as a public utility, making Internet Service Providers (ISPs) subjected to the same regulations as telephone, radio and electric carriers.
Under these rules, internet was viewed as “telecommunications” as opposed to information services. Internet service providers were required to treat all content providers equally.
- No blocking or slowing of lawful content, applications or services; all internet traffic was to have identical delivery and access.
- ISPs could not accept fees from content providers in exchange for favorable treatment/faster speed.
- No preference for ISPs’ own internal content delivery over competitors (i.e. Verizon’s streaming service favored over Amazon Prime).
Who’s for and against net neutrality?
For: Content providers, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and many other tech companies, large and small, are in favor of keeping net neutrality in place. Proponents of net neutrality fear the control ISPs will have over the internet, stating the regulation is needed for several reasons.
- ISPs could charge content providers higher fees or slow down their services by giving them less bandwidth if they don’t pay up, impacting the quality of service.
- Providers who didn’t, or couldn’t, “pay to play” would suffer.
- Suppressed innovation because startups might not be treated on equal standing to companies paying for bandwidth.
Proponents of the regulation also say any costs imposed on content providers will ultimately trickle to consumers.
Against: On the other hand, ISPs, such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and other service providers, are against net neutrality. These opponents say the repeal is a positive because it harms technological progress and creates other problems. Many believe:
- Regulation allows too much government control over the “free internet.”
- Net neutrality resulted in decreased investment in upgrading and/or building broadband networks.
- Services cannot be compared equally because all content does not use the same bandwidth (i.e. streaming video needs more resources than email).
Opponents also point out the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and FCC can still step in if an ISP begins unjustly penalizing certain content providers.
How will consumers be affected?
In the short term, the repeal of net neutrality likely won’t affect consumers. People will have continued access to websites and preferred services. However, theoretically, things could change, especially since emerging technologies (and those not yet conceived) are a constant. With artificial intelligence and “internet of things” rapidly developing, the way the internet is used continues to change, and if ISPs have too much control in an already low-competition environment, consumers might be heavily impacted.
Going forward, the public will be hearing a lot more about net neutrality. The repeal is only the first step in changing existing regulation. Time will tell what the ultimate implications will be. Remain abreast as this is an issue that has the potential to affect each and every one of us in the future.
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