Right now, a battle is being waged over Net Neutrality and how you can use and access the internet. We all thought this was settled a few years ago. The internet was protected and people went about their day. No one asked for it, but recently the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a rollback which would throw us right back to where we started, totally gutting Net Neutrality protections. So, let’s be clear, this affects everyone that uses the internet. Of course, many of you might be wondering what net neutrality is and why it’s such a big deal. Well, we’re here to give you a rundown on what it is, what the fight is about, and how you can get involved. Here are 25 Things You Need To Know About Net Neutrality.
Net Neutrality is a principle that says internet service providers (ISP's) should treat all web traffic the same. Many have argued it directly affects their right to Freedom of Speech if networks can throttle and control internet traffic.
A fierce battle ensued in 2015 over Net Neutrality, and the FCC decided to reclassify the internet as a "common carrier" like telephones. In doing so, the FCC cemented its authority to regulate broadband ISP's and protect Net Neutrality.
With this new authority, the FCC can issue fines to broadband networks that throttle, block, or discriminate against content on websites. They can also penalize broadband networks that charge fees for faster rates of data for only specific websites.
Prior to Net Neutrality, a wide range of examples exist of broadband networks blocking content. For instance, AOL Time Warner blocked all emails that had "www.dearaol.com," which advocated against AOL's pay-to-send email scheme. Bellsouth also blocked its users from accessing MySpace.com in Tennessee and Florida.
Net Neutrality does not mean big internet companies like Yahoo! and Google get a free ride and don't have to pay higher prices for higher bandwidth. Net Neutrality merely ensured broadband providers don't play favorites.
Comcast and other big broadband companies already have mass control of the market with little incentive to protect Net Neutrality, and like any company, they will always want to increase profits.
Those in favor of repeal, like FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, argue higher profits for broadband companies would allow them to invest and expand their networks to rural America. However, experts say that argument is pretty shaky. It's doubtful those investments would actually be made.
Net Neutrality is officially dead for now. On December 14th, 2017, in a 3-2 vote, the FCC repealed the rules put in place only two years ago to protect Net Neutrality.
Not all hope is lost! See number 1 for what you can do!
With Net Neutrality now gone, many have argued the internet will look much differently in the future, with slower speeds, higher rates, and blocked content, but proponents of the repeal dismissed their "apocalyptic" warnings, saying it isn't true.
Before the repeal, the FCC opened up the decision for feedback. They received 22 million comments, 7 million of which were SPAM.
In a survey conducted by the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, 83% of people from all sides of the political spectrum said they were against the repeal of Net Neutrality.
While Democrats have widely been critical of the repeal, the survey also showed that few Republicans wanted the repeal with only 1 in 5 Republicans in favor of it.
In addition, 70 percent of those surveyed said they opposed allowing broadband networks to charge internet streaming websites and other websites more for "fast lanes."
Regardless of popular opinion being widely against repealing Net Neutrality, Ajit Pai and the FCC refused to budge on the planned vote to repeal it and completely ignored all the comments and feedback they received.
Digging in his heels, Ajit Pai not only didn't listen to dissent but wholeheartedly defended the repeal, claiming it would benefit consumers because broadband networks would provide them with more options.
The "options" Mr. Pai refers to is the potential, but practically inevitable, tiered packages broadband companies will offer, including blocking popular instant messaging apps and video services like Facetime and Skype unless you pay a fee.
By allowing internet service providers to mess with speeds, block content, and create tiered packages, it can give an unfair advantage to larger companies who can pay the fees, while smaller startups will be left in the dust.
On the flip side, Net Neutrality helps even the playing field, promoting new internet services and applications which increases customer demand. These new services and innovations will only benefit broadband networks because more people will want more access.
Both sides claim to be for innovation, but they disagree about what drives it. Net Neutrality proponents claim it's allowing smaller startups to have a level playing field, while repeal advocates argue loosing regulation on big broadband networks will boost innovation.
Now that the rules enforcing Net Neutrality have been repealed, the new rules governing broadband networks don't really do much of anything. Broadband networks merely have to publicly claim what they plan to do. That's it.
What some don't realize is that many of these broadband companies like Comcast own their own content websites and networks like NBC and may want to take advantage of these rules to get more eyes on their own content.
Net Neutrality proponents also argue broadband networks could stifle and silence political voices entirely while providing their opponents the upper hand. How? By allowing faster speeds to their websites and message.
With the repeal now official, many have come out stating they will file a lawsuit against the FCC, including the New York Attorney General and Washington State Attorney General. Both are hopeful they can block the rollback.
Due to the uproar of popular opinion against the repeal, many major broadband networks and telecommunication companies have promised that nothing will change with the "customer experience." Of course, only time will tell if the lack of regulations will cause them to change customer experiences over time.
The website "Battle for the Net" is leading the charge to save Net Neutrality. The site has claimed that over 1 million people have called their representatives to voice opposition to the recent repeal. Nothing is set in stone. Congress can still pass a "Resolution of Disapproval" to overturn the vote. If you're for Net Neutrality, then call your congressman and senator and tell them.
You can find out more here.
Photos: 25. shutterstock, 24. pexels (public domain), 23. shutterstock, 22. tactical technology collective via flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, 21. pixabay (public domain), 20-18. wikimedia commons (public domain), 17. Elijah van der Giessen via flickr, CC BY 2.0, border added, 16. pixabay (public domain), 15. backbone campaign via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 14. DonkeyHotey via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 13. shutterstock, 12. wikimedia commons (public domain), 11. shutterstock, 10. Popcrate, Uh-oh-wikipedia-is-not-part-of-your-plan, CC BY-SA 4.0, 9-8. shutterstock, 7. pexels (public domain), 6. shutterstock, 5. wikimedia commons (public domain), 4. pexels (public domain), 3. shutterstock, 2. pixabay, 1. backbone campaign via flickr, CC BY 2.0, Thumbnail: Public Domain.