January 18, 2023Author: Hannelore Sanokklis
What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is the concept that the internet should remain as free and open as possible, and that no one should have the power to take control of it and block certain data.
Currently all data on the internet is controlled by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and the Federal Communications Commision (FCC). This can be problematic because if the ISPs are given too much power they can charge people more money to visit sites or exchange certain information. The United States’ Government has passed a few laws to deal with Net Neutrality but they change depending on who the current president is. The implementation of Net Neutrality has been a long fought battle and there are both pros and cons to its implementation.
What is the FCC and why does it get to make regulations about the internet?
The Federal Communications Commission is a federal agency that handles the regulation of communications by radio, television, wire, cable and satellite in the United States. It is headed by a chair, who is one of five commissioners appointed by the president. Since the commissioners are appointed by the president, the president can appoint commissioners according to their agenda.
What do Internet Service Providers do in terms of Net Neutrality?
An Internet Service Provider is a company that provides customers with the internet. Some common ISPs include Comcast, Verizon, Spectrum, AT&T, and Time Warner Cable. Customers will pay a certain price to get a certain speed of internet provided to them. Without Net Neutrality, ISPs could charge users for visiting certain websites or force them to upgrade their plan to view the site. They can also block certain websites from being viewed by their users, which could change public opinion and create forced biases.
What is ISP Throttling?
ISP throttling happens when your ISP deliberately restricts your internet bandwidth or internet speed without telling you. It is not necessarily a bad thing. If many people are using a cell tower at one time, it allows the ISP to evenly distribute bandwidth among users. It can also be used as a tactic to clear up network congestion. ISPs can potentially use throttling to slow down certain applications to discourage users from using them. This could push users to use other applications, such as ones that are affiliated with the ISP. This creates the complicated question of whether ISPs should be able to throttle their users. It is questionable when they do it to influence a user’s internet habits to profit off of them, but ISPs also need to do it to make sure the internet is not consistently congested and slow.
A Timeline of Net Neutrality:
The internet is created; it takes on the emphasis of being free and open. The Internet was initially developed by the US Army to help university professors and academics share their research.
Tim Wu of Columbia University coins the term “net neutrality”.
Brand X goes to the supreme court and ISPs are made harder to regulate.
President Obama's FCC establishes laws guaranteeing net neutrality.
The D.C Circuit Court of Appeals rules that the FCC is not entitled to impose net neutrality on services that are not common carriers (such as ISPs).
FCC reclassifies ISPs as Title II services. This gives the FCC authority to enforce net neutrality.
FCC tries to establish net neutrality policy. Net neutrality becomes an official policy.
The FCC under President Trump removes net neutrality policies and restores the policies to how they were before Obama’s presidency. ISPs are allowed to sell users’ data without their permission.
The D.C Circuit Court of Appeals partially upholds the policies created by the FCC under Donald Trump(the court ruled that the FCC cannot prevent states from enacting their own net neutrality laws)
President Joe Biden encourages the FCC to restore net neutrality regulation undone by President Trump
The Net Neutrality and Broadband Justice Act was introduced. As of November 2022, this has not yet passed.
Benefits of Net Neutrality:
Freedom of expression/freedom of speech
Business freedom and consumer choice
Level playing field
No one with more money receives special treatment
No discrimination from ISPs
Downsides of Net Neutrality:
No one is paying for their data
Offensive, illegal, and dangerous content is widely available
Would be hard to block/restrict this data
No new infrastructure
ISPs cant invest in their infrastructure, money could be used to expand the high speed to rural areas
Who Supports Net Neutrality?
Human rights organizations
A quote from the American Civil liberties Union: “Without the vigorous non-discrimination principles in place before 2005, a few corporate conglomerates will control everything you can say or do on the Internet. Net Neutrality is needed, and it is needed now.”
Software and tech companies
Consumer rights advocates
Large internet companies(Netflix, Amazon, Yahoo, Twitter, Microsoft)
These companies do not want their services blocked or restricted on the internet
Who Opposes Net Neutrality?
Internet Service Providers
What Has Happened Without Net Neutrality?
Youtube and Netflix were slowed by wireless carriers, using a fraction of available speed.
Verizon throttled services, which affected the Santa Clara County Fire Department’s ability to provide emergency services during the California wildfires.
Comcast introduced new speed limits where videos will be throttled to 480p on all its mobile plans unless customers pay extra.
Time Warner's AOL blocked all emails that mentioned www.dearaol.com, an advocacy campaign opposing AOL's pay-to-send email scheme
AT&T blocked FaceTime for its users unless they paid for a more expensive “Mobile Share” plan.
What do other Countries say about Net Neutrality?
Counties that are part of the EU:
The EU has regulations to promote and protect net neutrality and rules that prevent ISPs from restricting and blocking user access to content.
India has some of the strictest Net Neutrality rules in the world
Policymakers and Indian Activists heavily fought for an open internet
ISPs that violate the regulations face losing their license to operate