by Gavin Sampson
If you’ve been browsing the internet for the past couple of months you’ve definitely heard of something called Net Neutrality. Well to some that may sound like a political stance regarding fishing nets and sea turtles. It is actually an extremely important subject that has come into the public eye heavily over the past few years. It is something that affects everyone who uses the internet.
So what is Net Neutrality? Net Neutrality a very important and relatively recent idea. It’s the principal Internet service providers (If you’re wondering who they are, just check the top left-hand corner of your phone screen) must treat all data on the internet the same. They can’t censor, slow, or speed up any set of data on the Internet. “What does that have to do with me?” you ask. A lot actually. Net Neutrality rules forbid an ISP such as Verizon or AT&T from being able to create paid fast lanes. It stops these providers from being able to slow your Netflix while speeding up your Hulu. They could throttle the speed of a competitor’s service so people are more inclined to use their service. It even goes farther than that. Without any Net Neutrality rules in place, an ISP can even block entire websites from your viewing unless you and that website pay a fee to be visitable. ISPs could, in essence, be able to control what you see or at least speed up or slow down what you’re seeing.
Back in the happy year of 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) received millions of comments requesting that the Internet become classified as a “telecommunications service”. Basically, the Internet is something that is so vital to business and life, that it should not be censorable or controllable. The FCC decided that this was correct and this decision allowed the internet in the United States to be classified as a service which meant that Net neutrality was firmly in place. No ISP could throttle your internet. ISPs fought and fought to get these regulations replaced, but were unsuccessful. Net Neutrality stayed.
Then came the 2016 election cycle. President Donald Trump was elected and the Republican Party gained a majority over both houses of Congress. President Donald Trump is anti-Net Neutrality as sees it as a detriment to the free market. He designated an already serving member of the commission, Ajit Pai, as the new FCC Chairman. Ajit Pai is fiercely anti-Net Neutrality and immediately began the process of trying to remove the regulations. He argues that Net Neutrality hinders the ISPs ability manage all of the data being processed. He also believes that a free market strategy is superior as competition in the marketplace and Americans punishing a company who throttles by switching carriers will result in a fairer and more open Internet. His push to remove the regulations have been met with widespread arguments as over two million comments were left on the FCC’s site when it was opened up for comment.
As of now, the FCC plans to vote on the removal of Net Neutrality on December 14th. The resolution is expected to pass as 3 out of the 5 commissioners are for it as of now. No matter the direction the vote goes the final decision will be massive in its effect on the Internet.