I’ve had this blog for over a year now and somehow I’ve managed to keep it going. Looking back over my posts, one thing surprised me – I had yet to write one about Net Neutrality. As an avid internetter, this is an issue that really concerns me. So much so, that it was the subject of my very first blog post ever, over a decade ago. Unfortunately, it is still an issue that needs to be discussed today.
Because of it’s length, I’ve broken this post down into sections. Feel free to skip around.
The term ‘net neutrality’ describes the concept that all internet traffic should be treated equally. Meaning whether you’re reading this blog or CNN, both will be accessible to you at equivalent speeds and ease of access. What we have right now is almost a neutral internet, but not quite.
Recent Events – Netflix
Comcast customers who hold Netflix subscriptions may remember a few months ago when their streaming speeds and quality began to take a dive. Comcast claimed Netflix’s heavy traffic was putting too much of a strain on the middlemen internet companies that work to move these internet packets around. The middleman company in this case, Level 3, claimed that this was not their fault, but instead Comcasts’ for failing to upgrade their networks. Eventually Netflix agreed to pay Comcast, and later Verizon, to cut out the middle man and improve streaming quality.
Recently President Obama came out in support of net neutrality, asking Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler, whom he appointed a year ago, to reclassify internet service under something called “Title II”. “Title II” refers to the Communications Act of 1934. If reclassified under Title II, internet service providers like Comcast would become “common carriers”. This means they would be treated much like utlities, and the FCC would have more control in regulating them. The belief is that reclassification would protect net neutrality.
However, this was more of an empty gesture, as the FCC is a completely independent agency, meaning they don’t have to (and shouldn’t have to) do what the federal government dictates. Halfway through this week it appears as though FCC Chariman Tom Wheeler will stick to his original plan of trying to stand between both sides and give a little to each. Neither side seems to want this though. Many internet users will not be happy, as over 1 million of them submitted formal comments to the FCC regarding the issue, most in support. Verizon has threatened a lawsuit if things go the way of reclassification. Comcast surely won’t be happy as it would like mean no more deals akin to the Netflix situation.
If we were to see reclassification under Title II, all traffic would be equal. We would avoid possible situations where a company like Netflix might refuse to pay ISPs extra for “equal treatment” and therefore customers would not be able to access certain websites and be forced to use competitors. Title II would maintain a level playing ground across the internet, ensuring consumers would be able to visit any website they’d like.
Reclassification under Title II would mean more regulation and oversight. It could put strains on internet service providers which would have to try to keep up with demand for websites like YouTube and Netflix that require a lot of bandwidth. It could result in slowing of networks if ISPs failed to upgrade. Title II may stifle competition and increase barriers to entry. A more capitalistic approach would encourage competition and improve the internet.
- Net neutrality is a concept the describes the practice of treating all data on the internet equally
- Title II is a proposal to reclassify ISPs as ‘common carriers’ and regulate them much like utlities to protect net neutrality
- Barack Obama has come out in support of Title II, but the FCC is an independent agency and will make its own decision
- For: Title II would maintain a level playing ground across the internet ensure consumers could visit all websites without issue
- Against: Title II could strain ISPs and stifle competition, a more capitalistic approach could encourage competition and innovation
- All of our laws and regulations are based on antiquated acts and idealogies. So much of our government needs an overhaul. We really need a complete reworking of things to better understand situations and make decisions.
Other sources not previously linked: Quartz, New York Times, Ars Technica, Gawker