Net neutrality is all over the news. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), with the support of U.S. President Donald Trump, wants to repeal the net neutrality laws put in place to create a more equal and open Internet. People gathered in 700 different cities across the United States (mostly outside Verizon stores) to protest these changes.
But, what exactly does this mean and why are people so upset? Women’s Post has you covered with this super easy to understand (and perhaps overly simplistic) primer:
What is net neutrality?
Net neutrality is essentially equality on the Internet — all data must be treated the same by all providers, browsers, and platforms. It prevents these companies from slowing down service (or preventing access entirely) to website, applications, and other features from competitors. Internet providers can deny access to certain sites either because you don’t pay enough or because they have their own service they would rather customers use.
For example, in 2014, Comcast got caught slowing down streaming on Netflix, and AT&T started a program that required apps to pay more money in order to ensure they used less data. All of these things gave certain platforms and applications an advantage over others.
What happened in 2015?
In 2015, President Barack Obama encouraged the FCC to regulate broadband Internet providers as a public utility, recognizing the Internet as a service necessary for economic and social growth, as well as a tool for innovation. Internet was reclassified as a telecommunications service in order to justify the change. Telecommunication companies are exempt from any kind of price control. It also led to more government control over broadband traffic.
In short: companies were not allowed to block or slow down the content of their rivals.
What is happening now?
Trump was elected and wants to overturn everything Obama has done. This includes net neutrality. What are the arguments for net neutrality? Republicans believe the government oversight associated with Open Internet was slowing investment in the technology.
Without net neutrality, it would also allow carriers like Verizon and AT&T to offer tiered pricing for Internet access — the more a person pays, the faster they get their Internet. Those who agree with the appeal say this will create a more stable marketplace and remove barriers for investment.
However, without net neutrality it becomes difficult for emerging technology companies or startups to get the same amount of speed as other sites. There will be no guarantee your site wouldn’t be blocked or that it won’t lag when potential customers come to use your product. There is also a socio-economic concern — if you have to pay more for Internet access that works; what will this mean for those who can’t afford it?
The new rules are scheduled to be voted on next Thursday, December 14.
What do you think? Should the U.S. repeal net neutrality? Let us know in the comments below!