If you like the Internet, you should support Net Neutrality: here’s why
Net Neutrality is the idea that all internet traffic should be treated equally, protected by FCC regulations prior to December 14th of 2017. Ajit Pai, the chairman of the FCC and former Verizon employee, supported repealing Net Neutrality and was able to get the FCC to repeal it on a 3-2 vote on party lines of 3 Republicans and 2 Democrats, opening the internet to greater control and abuse by large internet service providers.
What is Net Neutrality Exactly?
It was put into effect by an FCC vote in 2015. The FCC reclassified Internet Service Providers (ISPs), such as Xfinity, Verizon, and Sprint, as common carriers or telecommunication services rather than information services under Title II of the Telecommunication Act. Net Neutrality ensures three basic principles for all lawful content on the internet:
1) No blocking : ISPs cannot discriminate against content by blocking websites or apps
2) No throttling : ISPs cannot slow down websites or apps based on content
3) No paid prioritization : ISPs cannot create internet “fast lanes” in which websites and apps have to pay more money to work faster.
How can the internet change because of the Repeal?
The repeal of Net Neutrality allows the few large internet service providers to exert more control over companies and consumers that use the internet and charge them more for it.
It hurts innovation and new companies. Startups can now be charged more money, based on their content, to have fast website and apps. These startup companies will not be able to afford the premiums that Google, Netflix, Amazon and others may be able to pay in order to have their content favored by internet service providers and kept in the “fast lane.”
It hurts the consumer. Internet service providers can now create bundle packages such as social media packages or video streaming packages like cable companies. They can charge you more to access one specific service such as Netflix. Content can be potentially censored on the internet by ISPs if they do not agree with it. They can also block websites or apps entirely like if they wanted you to use their own video calling service instead of competitors they could potentially just block them.
With the repeal, ISPs will be able to engage in actions that violate net neutrality as long as they publicly disclose it, which can just be done by updating their policy on their website. The FCC’s repeal also places oversight of anti-competitive actions by ISPs in the hands of the Federal Trade Commission which has little experience in internet and telecommunications policy.
Will all of this happen immediately?
In the near term, experts say that providers will probably stay on their best behavior because there is so much attention on them by consumers, the media, and litigation. Over time though things may slowly change.
Why the Arguments Against Net Neutrality Don’t Work
The ISP Industry supports the repeal, of course, claiming regulations hurt their investments, innovation, and discourages them from building or upgrading their networks. Yes, Net Neutrality’s repeal will foster more innovation, investments, and infrastructure for the current large internet service providers, but only for them. The industry has also made many promises that it will continue to treat all internet traffic equally. This is not true as at least Xfinity changed its public policy on net neutrality on its website shortly after its repeal.
Some people think that paid prioritization agreements are actually good, according to a Fox News, opinion piece, stating: “Such agreements allow data to travel on less-congested networks when main routes are clogged up [and that] It makes sense for ISPS to ask business like Youtube, Netflix, and other internet streaming services to pay a little more for their services may want to pay a little bit extra to a network company to guarantee better quality.” Yes ISPs can bring in even more money with the repeal of net Neutrality by choosing to charge companies such as Youtube and Netflix more, but this will only benefit the handful of the current large, greedy ISPs. It will hurt smaller companies that will not have enough money to pay the new higher prices of the ISPs and it can hurt consumers if Netflix, for instance, has to start charging more for their service if they have to pay more for the data it distributes.
The same article also states that: “Market forces already protected consumers, because if an ISP started deliberately slowing down people’s favorite websites and streaming services, or putting an end to free speech, consumers would simply switch to a different ISP.” This is not true if all of the very few Internet Service Providers start to censor and slow down content, the consumers choice will only be between: internet or no internet.
Some say that the internet was fine without the regulations implemented by Net Neutrality in 2015. This argument also does not hold up as according to Fox News, “The Associated Press in 2007 found Comcast was blocking some file-sharing services. AT&T blocked Skype and other internet calling services – which competed with is voice-call business – from the iPhone until 2009.” Comcast has also been known to deliberately slow down Netflix in the past.
One more argument against Net Neutrality regulations is that any regulations on businesses are bad for the economy. In this case this is not true because the Net Neutrality regulations does not regulate any other part of the internet, such as content, other than the “last mile” of the internet that connects people’s devices to the internet. This is also incorrect because the regulations support small businesses and startup companies that create innovation.
How are people responding?
According to the Washington Post, “The survey by the university's Program for Public Consultation and Voice of the People, a nonpartisan polling organization, concluded that 83 percent of Americans do not approve of the FCC proposal. Just 16 percent said they approved.”
The New York Times also wrote an article that highlighted political involvement by teenagers in the fight for net neutrality, stating that many teenagers got politically involved for the first time during the net neutrality repeal. James Lyons, a senior at East Haven High School, who would like to major in computer science in college, weighed in on the issue, showing his knowledge and passion for Net Neutrality: “Net Neutrality is a bill that restricts ISPs (Internet Service Providers) from discriminating which websites receive a better connection to you than others. Recently, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) held a vote where they ruled that Net Neutrality should be repealed. Every single American citizen should be passionate about this issue because it will affect every person and entity that interacts with the internet. Without Net Neutrality, your ISP can charge you extra to go on your favorite websites. If Net Neutrality is not protected, your internet bill could go up an extra several hundred dollars simply due to the greed of the ISPs.”
What is going on now?
The fight for Net Neutrality is not over. Many public interest groups such as the Free Press and Public Knowledge are suing the FCC over Net Neutrality along with a major litigation led by a coalition of 22 states.
Democrats are also hoping to make Net Neutrality a major topic of the 2018 midterm elections. Through the Congressional Review Act, Democrats hope to introduce legislation to reinstate Net Neutrality by law, if only to make a statement. Their legislation will likely pass the House as they only need a simple majority and have the support of a Republican, but is very unlikely to pass the House or of course the President from veteoing.
Also an Ios and Android app known as Wehe, has recently been featured for being able to quickly detect net neutrality violations on your network.
In Connecticut, Governor malloy immediately spoke out against the Net Neutrality repeal. Also, recently Connecticut has joined the multi-state Net Neutrality lawsuit consisting of 22 states suing the FCC.
You can raise awareness for Net Neutrality by telling you representatives and the world through social media and the internet that you do not support the repeal of Net Neutrality and the destruction of a free and open internet. You can also find many resources for Net Neutrality advocacy, online, of course.