In the recent years, the words “Net Neutrality” have become somewhat of a buzzword pertaining to big internet giants throttling our speeds and charging us more money to enjoy services that we already enjoy for no additional cost at all. So, what is Net Neutrality, what are the intentions behind the FCC’s proposal to repeal it, and why are people up in arms every time this principle comes under the threat of repeal?
What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality by definition is “the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.” The common fear is that without said Net neutrality laws in place cable and phone companies can divide the internet into different lanes of speed depending on the kind of content you are trying to access. Take this for an example. Comcast owns the company Hulu. If one wants to stream Hulu on their internet provided by Comcast, then their stream will be smooth and without latency issues. However, if one tried to stream a Netflix series, (a competitor to Hulu and therefore Comcast) that person would find their streaming experience to be riddled with latency issues and quality problems. It is also feared that content such as political opinions can be blocked altogether by ISP’s that don’t want said opinions to be seen. To circumvent this fear of ISP’s doing harm to our access to the internet, on February 26th, 2015 the FCC ruled in favor of Net Neutrality by rebranding broadband access as a telecommunications service.
What is Title II?
The communications Act of 1934 is separated in seven Title’s that serve as sections for each form of communications affected by the act. The one we want to look at here is Title II : Common Carrier. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 revised the Title II provisions regarding common carriers. This act gives telephone companies the options of providing a video programming service as a common carrier or as a traditional cable television provider. If a company chooses to provide service as a common carrier then they will face less regulation but will also have to comply with the FCC’s regulations. According to the official website lobbying against the repeal of Net Neutrality, https://www.savetheinternet.com, “Title II gives the FCC the authority it needs to ensure that companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon can’t block, throttle or otherwise interfere with web traffic. Title II preserves the internet’s level playing field, allowing people to share and access information of their choosing.”
Why is the FCC trying to repeal Net Neutrality?
In January 2017 Ajit Varadaraj Pai was named chairman of the FCC by Donald Trump. Mr.Pai would later go on to send a proposal in April 2017 to roll back net neutrality rules and Title II classifications. It was also proposed that ISP’s should instead “voluntarily” commit to the principles, and that violations of them should be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission instead of the FCC as unfair or deceptive business practices. Mr.Pai believes that Net Neutrality laws stifle competition in the ISP field and promotes monopoly and the use of under handed practices such as internet throttling. On May 18th 2017 the FCC voted to move forward with Pai’s proposal to repeal Net Neutrality laws.
Why is everyone up in arms about this development?
Each time Net Neutrality has come into the spotlight both before and after its proposed repeal, denizens of the internet have banded together to voice their concerns. The more known examples to be internet personalities and pop culture talk show hosts informing their audiences of Net Neutrality with only the bare minimum of information needed to know that the repealing of these laws would affect them. Pai’s true intentions behind repealing Net Neutrality often falls on deaf ears due to people being rightfully concerned with how it would affect them first and the free market second.