If you’ve been paying attention to the news in recent weeks, you’ve probably heard the term “net neutrality” thrown around quite a bit. And, depending on who’s talking about it, their definitions are usually contradicting and confusing. This blog post aims to simplify what’s going on with the subject, what the FCC’s recent ruling means to Internet users all around the world, and what you should do if you care about your online freedom.
What is Net Neutrality and Why Should You Care?
Net neutrality is the idea that governments and ISP’s should treat all data on the Internet the same. This means there should be no discrimination when it comes to users, content, websites, platforms, equipment, modes of communication, and pricing. Until now, this is how the Internet has operated in the United States and the majority of the world. With net neutrality in place, the Internet is the same for anyone that uses it.
Proponents of net neutrality believe Internet users should be in control of what content they view and what applications they use on the web. Most online and technology companies want an open Internet because they believe a third party should not be permitted to control what users access online. Most consumers also support net neutrality because they want to be able to communicate and conduct business without any interference.
Opponents of net neutrality believe that regulation is necessary in order to “protect” Internet users. Many cable and telecommunications companies want more rules in place that will filter content and degrade services based on certain standards. In a worst-case scenario, the Internet will become like cable television where users pay for the content they want to see. The current pricing model where consumers have a choice between different bandwidth speeds would be no more. Instead, it would be up to the ISP to determine how fast certain websites load and which ones you can access.
What is the Recent FCC Ruling and What Happens Next?
Yesterday, U.S. regulators approved to open for public comment net neutrality rules proposed by the FCC. For the next four months, the plan will be debated on both sides of the argument until they figure out a solution.
Under the FCC’s proposal, Internet providers would be banned from blocking or slowing down access to websites but will be allowed to charge content companies for faster and more reliable delivery of their traffic to users. On the surface, this seems like a win-win situation for both sides of the argument, but is it really?
If companies are allowed to pay for faster web traffic, smaller companies that can’t afford to pay the toll won’t be able to compete. This essentially divides the Internet into two groups: the “haves” and the “have nots,” but the FCC is adamantly denying there will be any attempt to segregate the World Wide Web.
“I will not allow the national asset of an open Internet to be compromised. The prospect of a gatekeeper choosing winners and losers on the Internet is unacceptable.”
–Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission
Consumer advocates don’t believe this is true and want to reclassify Internet providers as utilities, similar to telephone companies. Under this scenario, ISP’s will be subject to stricter control and would ban practices that obstruct consumers from getting equal access to online content – no matter what it is. Not surprisingly, ISP’s are against this because it will drastically limit their power.
Submit Your Comments to the FCC
The FCC wants to know what you think about their proposal. If you care about net neutrality, now’s your chance to speak up. People from all over the United States have wasted no time and thousands of comments have already been submitted. If you want to do the same, follow these steps:
- Go to fcc.gov/comments.
- Click on proceeding 14-28, “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet”.
- Fill out the form and let them know what you think.
“This is your opportunity to formally make your point on the record. You have the ear of the entire FCC. The eyes of the world are on all of us. Use your voice and this platform to continue to be heard.”
— Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn