The issue of net neutrality is not a new one. In fact, the Federal Communications Commission approved strong net neutrality rules in 2015. The issue has resurfaced again this year thanks to the FCC’s new decision to move forward with its net neutrality roll back on May 18, 2017. The FCC is now taking public feedback on its proposal, which could be revised and put to a final vote later this year. Here’s what you need to know.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is the guiding principle of the internet that preserves internet users’ right to browse the internet freely. Net Neutrality regulations prevent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Comcast and Verizon from interfering with the websites we browse. Net Neutrality regulations have been controversial since their adoption since the FCC changed the classification of broadband to treat it like a public utility.
FCC Dismantles Net Neutrality
On May 18, the FCC voted to roll back net neutrality regulations and repeal “utility-style regulation” of the Internet. The FCC’s new proposal seeks to repeal the “general conduct” rule that allows the FCC to investigate business practices of Internet providers that it suspects may be anticompetitive. The proposal also asks whether the agency should eliminate rules banning the blocking and slowing of websites, as well as a rule forbidding ISPs from charging websites extra fees.
Cable and phone companies, like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T, who long have wanted an end to net neutrality were pleased with the outcome. Many ISPs view TV, film, and online content as their ticket to expansion. By buying up media firms, ISPs believe they can create bigger bundles to sell to customers. They can also mine their customers’ behavioral data and sell those insights to marketers to use for advertising purposes.
The Internet without Net Neutrality
The loss of net neutrality could mean the death of the Internet as we know it. Without it, the Internet could become a network where ISPs like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon can decide which websites, content or applications succeed and block the ones they don’t like or that compete with their offerings.
Net Neutrality Draws in Overwhelming Support
On July 12th, hundreds of companies and organizations, including Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Netflix, came together and organized a huge online protest against the FCC’s plan to scrap net neutrality rules. The FCC received more than 10 million comments on net neutrality demonstrating the overwhelmingly positive sentiment most Americans have toward existing Net Neutrality rules. Nearly everyone who depends on the Internet supports net neutrality and views it as critical to fostering job growth, competition, innovation, and success among businesses.
Supporters of Net Neutrality worry that changes to Net Neutrality laws would give large ISPs too much control over the content people access online and could result in corporate bidding for internet data and speed prioritization which could hurt small business owners. Big tech companies want net neutrality rules to remain to protect them from unfair treatment by ISPs and fear that without net neutrality rules, it’ll be harder for smaller companies to enter the market in the future. In a letter to the FCC they asked for, “strong and enforceable net neutrality rules”…” that ban blocking, throttling, paid prioritization, and other discriminatory practices.”
Regardless of the FCC’s decision, a complex legal fight is about to ensue. The final outcome remains to be seen. Whatever it may be, it will shape the future of business and the experience of using the Internet. Now’s the time for the public to stand up to keep the internet free and open.