Why You Should Care About Net Neutrality

Over the past few weeks, net neutrality has been in the news. Both parties have firm opinions, and it even played a significant role in the 2016 election. The problem is: not that many people know what net neutrality even is. Lots of people simply form their views based on the party they align with. It is essential that everyone, even you, know what net neutrality is and why it matters. 

So what exactly is net neutrality? Webster dictionary describes net neutrality as, “the idea or principle that all internet providers should or must treat all Internet data as the same regardless of its kind, source, or destination.”

The definition of net neutrality is complicated, and it is challenging for people to define it one sentence. Net neutrality is better explained hypothetically.

 

*The following example is not real and based only on a hypothetical situation*

 

Net neutrality means that no internet provider can slow traffic of any other entity. This means that Verizon or Charter could not show any preferential treatment to their service.

Net neutrality came into the news recently when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman, Ajit Pai, announced plans to scrap rules on governing how internet providers handle web traffic, which had unleashed a wave of intense opposition at the end of November.

 

Picture from WCCFTECH

 

The net neutrality rules are expected to pass when the FCC votes on it this month.

Pai argues that the Obama-era rules have stifled broadband companies’ investments and are too heavy-handed. He also has continually called out celebrities who have criticized his plan and social media companies that he claims are a more significant threat to internet speech than broadband providers.

“Many critics don’t seem to understand that we are moving from heavy-handed regulation to light-touch regulation, not a completely hands-off approach,” he said in a speech on Tuesday. “We aren’t giving anybody a free pass. We are simply shifting from one-size-fits-all preemptive regulation to targeted enforcement based on actual market failure or anticompetitive conduct.”

Pai plans to repeal the rules of the Obama administration. The laws prohibit high-speed internet service providers, or I.S.P.s, from stopping or slowing down the delivery of websites. They also prevent the companies from charging customers extra fees for high-quality streaming and other services.

The announcement set off a fight over free speech and the control of the internet, pitting telecom titans like AT&T and Verizon against internet giants like Google and Amazon. The internet companies warned that rolling back the rules could make the telecom companies powerful gatekeepers to information and entertainment. The telecom companies say that the existing regulations prevent them from offering customers a more comprehensive selection of services at higher and lower price points.

A recent Morning Consult/Politico poll showed that a slight majority, 52 percent, support the current net neutrality rules. That includes 55 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of Republicans.

Comcast, one of the country’s biggest broadband companies, said it would not slow websites that contain legally permitted material.

“AT&T intends to operate its network the same way AT&T operates its network today: openly and transparently. We will not block websites, we will not throttle or degrade internet traffic based on content, and we will not unfairly discriminate in our treatment of internet traffic,” Bob Quinn, AT&T’s head of regulatory affairs, wrote in a blog post this week.

“We are disappointed that the proposal announced today by the F.C.C. fails to maintain the strong net neutrality protections that will ensure the internet remains open for everyone,” Erin Egan, a vice president at Facebook, said in a statement. “We will work with all stakeholders committed to this principle.”

“The reality is that Congress provides a critical role in overseeing the FCC,” Evan Greer, the campaign manager for the pro-net neutrality group Fight for the Future said. “If they sit back and do nothing and allow the FCC to move forward with this vote, then the blood of the internet is on their hands as well, and they will be to blame for getting rid of these basic consumer protections.”

In 2015, the FCC passed a vote on preventing companies like Verizon and Comcast from blocking or slowing down websites or creating internet “fast lanes.” The 2015 vote immediately receives backlash.

As of December 3, 2017, over 750,000 Americans have called Congress to reveal their opposition to the new FCC plan. Currently, activists are planning demonstrations at Verizon stores and their local congressional offices across the country within the next week.

If the law is passed, many activists and groups have hinted at a lawsuit. However, until then, pressure from both sides will only continue.

No matter your view on the issue, call your local congressional leader and tell them your views. Congressional leaders listen to the voices of their people. Make your voice heard!