What is Net Neutrality and How Does it Affect the Public?


Over the past year, there has been much frenzy among consumers and the media due to the term “Net Neutrality.” But what exactly does this term mean, and how does it affect the American public?

Well, this recently popularized term goes to back Jan. 12, 2003 when Law Professor Tim Wu first used the phrase in a law review article, according to whatisnetneutrality.org. This led to the term being defined as “the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) should give consumers access to all legal content and applications on an equal basis, without favoring some sources or blocking others,” according to USA Today.

The Federal Communications Commission then started regulating the Internet and ISPs (Verizon, AT&T, etc.) for any potential favoring or blocking activities. During this time, certain companies did not follow the net neutrality rules. One of these ISPs was Comcast, who blocked Bittorrent in September of 2007, also according to whatisnetneutrality.org. The FCC then started an investigation and found that Comcast was, in fact, discriminating against Bittorrent. This was not the only case to go against net neutrality, but it was the most publicized.

Courtesy of enews.org
Courtesy of enews.org

In 2010, the FCC created the Open Internet Order, which stated that fixed and mobile broadband providers had to provide transparency, could not be involved in the process of blocking, and cannot be involved in any unreasonable discrimination. This is how the Internet has been treated since this order passed, but on Jan. 14, 2014 the D.C. Circuit overturned the open Internet rules, due to many challenges to the order.

In May, the FCC proposed new Internet rules, which tentatively included the use of fast and slow lanes online. This basically means that the FCC could let ISPs charge websites to access a fast lane. This would essentially slow down every site that does not pay, which is an issue for startups who do not have a lot of funds to spare. It would also mean that websites who do pay for the fast lane, such as Netflix, would charge subscribers more money to combat the cost of the fast lane. This caused a public outcry and Jon Oliver even spent half of his weekly show, Last Week Tonight, discussing the issue:

The FCC proposal led to many actions, including a Bill that bans fast lanes, 1.1 million comments left on the FCC website detesting the proposal, and corporations such as Facebook and Google banning together to combat the use of different lanes by creating a petition. Internet Slowdown Day also occurred on September 10, which was when companies advocated for net neutrality on their websites.

In November, President Obama made a speech endorsing Title II authority for Internet rules, and stated, “an entrepreneur’s fledgling company should have the same chance to succeed as established corporations, and that access to a high school student’s blog shouldn’t be unfairly slowed down to make way for advertisers with more money.” Title II authority means that the Internet would be regulated as a public utility.

On January 16, a net neutrality bill was created, and on February 26 the FCC passed Title II net neutrality rules with a 3-2 vote. This means that there will be no fast lanes, and “the regulations aim to ensure that all the Internet content you want to access — be it streaming video, audio or other material — will be treated equally by ISPs,” USA Today stated. So, for now, the Internet is open and free for everyone.

Click http://www.whatisnetneutrality.org/timeline for a complete timeline on net neutrality.




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