The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to
Here’s what you need to know about reversal of the Net Neutrality rules.
Net Neutrality was a law that imposed Internet restrictions on broadband providers like Comcast and Verizon to prevent them from dividing their networks into fast lanes and slow lanes, throttle rivals’ video-streaming speeds, block content and charge websites simply to reach their customers. Net neutrality is a set of rules designed to make Internet service providers treat all web traffic the same, no matter the source. Its defenders say these regulations are at the heart of the idea that the Internet should be an open space where information travels freely without interference by broadband providers.
Under net neutrality, Internet service providers have been more like passive conduits of data than content managers. When a customer pays Comcast or Verizon for Internet service, they’ve come to expect to connect with equal access to every legal website, whether big or small.
If a broadband provider interferes — either by slowing or blocking access to certain websites, discriminating against content or charging companies fees to deliver data at faster rates — net neutrality has authorized the FCC to issue fines.
In sum, net neutrality has stood for the principle, backed by sanctions, that all Internet content should be treated equally by the companies we pay to get online.
The FCC’s vote reverts broadband back to its previous status as an “information service,” and effectively removes the FCC’s power to create or enforce net neutrality protections. By reversing the Net Neutrality law broadband service providers could increase their bottom line. Looser regulations free up broadband providers to engage in the kind of financial arrangements that are now prohibited.
With net neutrality gone, Internet service providers can offer a website faster and more reliable delivery of its content in exchange for a fee. A broadband provider can also raise the transmission speed of its own content relative to that of its competitors. Broadband providers will also be free to block sites they find objectionable, which could open them up to political and public pressure.
Repeal advocates have long argued that higher profits will lead broadband providers to invest more in infrastructure, which could make high-speed Internet more widely available in underserved places, like rural America (though some experts say net neutrality’s effects on infrastructure investment is an open question).
Repeal has been favored by telecom giants like AT&T and Verizon, who favor less government regulation.
Net neutrality proponents say undoing the rules gives an unfair advantage to big corporations that can afford priority access, while squeezing out startups and smaller websites. They argue this could hurt innovation; companies like Etsy and Pinterest may never have become the household names they are today without a free and open Internet.
Even tech giants like Facebook and Google have spoken out against repeal, saying it would allow broadband providers to manipulate access as a way to play favorites.
Major telecommunications companies have promised that customers’ experiences would not be different without these regulations, though only time will tell how the Internet might change if the regulatory dismantling goes forward.
The truth is that MOST Republicans and MOST Democrats are opposed to repeal of net neutrality. So this is not really a political issue, but a technology issue. Most Republicans and Most Democrats use the internet and don’t want their use to change. However it is unclear if the repeal of Net Neutrality will actually change anything. There are several internet service providers. The real fear is that if there were only one large company who provided internet, that company could dominate the industry and charge whatever they chose for the services. Because there are several providers it is not likely that any one company could dominate the market. Moreover, we already have antitrust laws that would apply and protect consumers from one mega-company from dominating the market.
As America tries to compete in the global market, it seems that deregulation is essential to maintaining equal footing with companies that are not based in the United States. If an internet provider in China or India is not required to abide by the net-neutrality laws, we can be assured that eventually they will overtake the American company. By creating too many regulations for American
companies, we may inadvertently create opportunities for foreign companies to put American companies out of business.