What is “Net Neutrality”?
The concept that the Internet should be a right for all people, and should be unrestricted by the companies that provide the networks that connect people to the internet. By restricting network access, the companies providing access can throttle or limit connection speeds based on the online content you are trying to get hold of, which is the antithesis of the concept of the free and open internet.
Who are the key players?
President Obama: The president recently announced his support of “net neutrality” in the form of taking a stance on the way internet is delivered to the American people. He is looking to back legislation which would declare internet as a Utility, much like the electricity, cable and telephone companies are regulated in the way they provide services to American households, Internet service will also receive the same treatment as those other services.
ISP’s (Internet Service Providers): ISP’s are the companies/entities paid by consumers to provide them with Internet Access. Some big names in the industry would be Comcast/Universal, Time Warner Cable, Charter, and Cox, just to name a few. Here at the university, the campus is its own ISP, fulfilling the role of getting you connected to the Internet.
The FCC/Chairman Wheeler: As of February 26th 2015, the FCC completed a ruling that favored net neutrality, which enables the free internet, by amending the Communications Act of 1934. In his justification, he is quoted as saying, “This is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. They both stand for the same concept.”
What are the implications on me?
Since a free and open internet has been what users have been accustomed to since the inception of the internet, the lack of such freedom would definitely impact the way people use the internet as a resource. If people were forced to pay for access to sites that were outside of a certain subscription model, people would eventually catch on to the fact that they were getting taken advantage of by these corporations that have the power to charge twice for a certain service. For example, the video subscription service Netflix (a leader in passing net neutrality legislation) , which costs $8.99 at the writing of this article, may have to vary subscription costs based on the way the ISP charges for access to their content. This ultimately demonstrates that the only real entities that would gain from a throttled internet would be the people providing access (ISP’s) and not the content creators (users of the Internet).
How can these decisions affect the future of the Internet?
Although the FCC has released the specifications of the new legislation which classifies the Internet as a utility, which subjects it to laws regarding blocking of some content, other advances have yet to be made, where individuals will have unfiltered access to some media streaming services. There are some companies looking to sidestep the FCC’s legislation, such as Sony or HBO potentially filing for classification as non-BIAS (non-broadband internet access service), which would prioritize these sites traffic by grouping them outside common internet access.
By allowing these internet companies to regulate how the internet is accessed, even if by just limiting the speed, they are in a way censoring content for the general public and would have the capabilities to extort certain companies for prioritized access speed. With the recent amendment in February, they have staved off the companies that are fighting so hard to undermine the “Open Internet”, but as with all legislation, how long will it take until these companies find a loophole on which to further their agenda?