Net Neutrality is a vitally important concept for maintaining an open internet, but it has faced many legal hurdles. Join Ian R Buck as he dives into the topic. This episode will be updated whenever there are new developments.
01:47 | Definition
Net neutrality: the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.
When net neutrality is followed, everybody online is treated equally. This allows new websites, apps, and services to compete fairly with large, established companies. Imagine you have an idea to create a new site for streaming virtual reality video. If internet providers are allowed to charge companies for fast lanes, how are you supposed to compete with YouTube? YouTube has enough money to pay for a fast lane, but you don’t because you just started. So your viewers will get much lower quality video, whereas YouTube’s viewers will see higher quality video.
Also, think about internet providers that also publish media. What is to stop Comcast from preferring their own video services over other video services?
Under normal circumstances, a company that treats its customers would quickly lose those customers. However, 51% of Americans have only one choice of broadband internet provider and another 38% only have two choices.
Some internet uses are more network sensitive (gaming, video calling) than others, so it might be better overall if those are given higher priority.
Networks are expensive to create, and regulations could discourage investment in network infrastructure.
In the 90’s and early 00’s there was lots of competition because of line sharing mandates, where companies had to allow other internet providers to use the phone lines they built. Because of all this competition, there wasn’t much concern about net neutrality violations. However, line sharing mandates were eliminated by the Bush Administration.
For a long time, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) could not regulate internet providers very effectively on net neutrality. They tried to set up rules, but when the internet providers took them to court, the rules were struck down because internet providers were classified as “information services” instead of “telecommunications services.” The FCC did not have much power to regulate information services.
However, early in 2015 congress gave FCC permission to determine what classification they would put internet providers under. In February the board members of the FCC voted to classify internet providers as telecommunications services. So now they have the ability to make internet providers play nice. This also ties into the issue of whether or not internet access should be treated as a utility.
Trump hasn’t talked much about net neutrality, but what he has said wasn’t good.
Trump’s FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, voted against the net neutrality rules in 2015 and now he is determined to get rid of them. On May 18 the FCC announced a plan called “Restoring Internet Freedom” repealing the net neutrality rules enacted in 2015 and placing regulation of ISPs on the FTC. In exchange, it asks ISPs to voluntarily promise not to slow users’ speeds or restrict their access to data. This is a JOKE.
Quote from vox.com: “And there’s a huge problem with Pai’s plan to make ISP regulation the FTC’s responsibility, which is simply that the FTC is an enforcement agency, not a regulatory one. That is, the FTC has no ability to create or enforce new regulations against potential abuses of net neutrality, because while the Federal Communications Commission can enact regulations for how ISPs must behave, the Federal Trade Commission is really only legally able to enforce existing rules against ISPs after the FCC has established them. So since the FCC would be throwing its own regulations out the window, the only regulatory action the FTC would be able to take would be to issue punishments after the fact if an ISP failed to actually adhere to any promise to obey net neutrality that it had voluntarily written into its own terms of service.”
It is open for public comment until July 17. Many companies and individuals who rely on the internet participated in a Day of Action on July 12. Many prominent websites posted banners, loading circles, and pop-up messages encouraging visitors to submit comments in support of Net Neutrality. After the public comment window, the FCC has until August 16 to issue their response.