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Posted by A-Jay Orr

Net Neutrality In a Nutshell – What’s The Deal?

The internet is the greatest free market for innovation and speech that the world has ever seen. But there’s no guarantee that it will always remain free. Fast, reliable internet is under fire as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fights to reform protections known as Net Neutrality.
Net Neutrality
noun: net neutrality; network neutrality
The principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.
One side argues that net neutrality belongs to the people and restricting access becomes an issue of censorship, free speech, and human rights. The other side believes it is governed by outdated rules and must be reformed. To help you understand how this issue impacts you, we’re doing what we always do — keeping it simple and breaking it down.


What happened?

On December 14, 2017, the FCC approved a plan drafted by chairman Ajit Pai’s (former Verizon attorney and Trump appointee) that will overturn protections known as net neutrality.


Why should you care?

  • Net neutrality is vital for minority groups, the LGBTQ community, religious groups, and others fighting systemic discrimination. These groups rely on freedom of speech and the far-reaching internet to exercise their voices, connect with others, and educate the public.

  • Net neutrality is also an issue that impacts people who live in rural areas. The federal court defines the internet as a basic utility, like gas or water. But 35 percent of people who live in rural areas have zero access to the internet, which makes net neutrality a complex battle. On the one hand, reform could result in greater investment in the overall infrastructure. On the other hand, it could make it even more costly and difficult for rural residents to gain access.

  • Lastly, net neutrality impacts businesses, startups, and other types of entrepreneurs. These organizations depend on the internet to facilitate transactions, create markets, advertise products and services, connect with customers, and more. Without net neutrality, Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) will have the power to give preferential treatment to companies in exchange for money, which could tip the even playing field in favor of big business.

The Goals of Net Neutrality:

  • To ensure that the internet stays free and open.
  • To prohibit ISP’s like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon from tampering with internet speed, or blocking content, applications, or websites.
  • To provide the freedom to connect to any website, application, or information you want.
  • To limit how your ISP uses your data.

The Facts

  • Contrary to popular belief, both sides of the net neutrality debate believe in enforceable consumer protections. The real argument is whether the FCC will rewrite the rules to favor big business, or preserve existing rules (Title II) which already put consumer interests first.

  • Without net neutrality, ISP’s will technically have the power to block websites. The FCC believes that, because consumer demand ultimately dictates corporate success, organizations who abuse their power will organically get weeded out. But this assumes that “us consumers” can detect when an ISP is blocking access to internet technology. According to an article published by the Chicago Tribune,
The Associated Press in 2007 uncovered that Comcast was blocking or delaying file-sharing on the BitTorrent network. And AT&T did not allow internet calling services like Skype on its cellular network for iPhone users until 2009.

  • The FCC neither denies or confirms claims that their reform policy will result in “fast lanes” and “slow lanes”. By “lanes” we mean the speed at which you can experience the internet. The FCC only states that fast and slow lanes won’t worsen consumers’ online experience.

  • The FCC is trying to repeal a rule that stops ISPs from blocking websites. Once removed, ISPs will have the freedom to block your access to parts of the internet.

  • ISP’s will have the power to charge more for faster access and reach online. In other words, those with money will have more freedoms than those without.

The Argument FOR Reform

Repeal advocates believe that reforming net neutrality will result in higher profits for ISP’s. The hope is that ISP’s will re-invest revenue back into the online infrastructure and expand access to high-speed internet in underserved places like rural America.

The Argument AGAINST Reform

Those who oppose reform are skeptical. They believe this logic places enormous trust in enterprises who, in return, won’t remain loyal to consumers. Unfortunately, history makes a compelling case. When given a chance to monopolize, big business rarely hesitates.

In essence, the internet could start to resemble cable television. Will you start experiencing an immediate change? Probably not right away. ISP’s have “promised” not to tamper with your online experience. Given the magnitude of this debate, they will likely follow through with this promise — for now.

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