Opinion: Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality is important. No one is questioning that anymore. So what’s the problem?

To start with, everyone needs to be on the the same page as to what net neutrality actually is. The Oxford dictionary defines it as “The principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should enable access to all content and application regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.” In layman’s terms this is the idea that internet should exist without preferential treatment for high-paying websites.

Possible repercussions include slower internet speeds for the majority of websites, higher subscription fees for services such as Netflix (due to ISPs charging them for faster speeds), more ads, and websites with ISP paywalls. These possibilities could affect all internet users, and drastically change the way we use the internet.

Net neutrality is not currently legally enforced, though it is largely followed out of habit. There used to be limited FCC regulation that included neutrality rules, but these were overturned in January when Verizon won a lawsuit challenging their legitimacy. According to the DC Court of Appeals website, the court ruled the FCC had no legal authority to enforce the current internet non-discrimination laws. So now ISPs are faced with a near-complete lack of government oversight. This conjures images of barbaric levels of unchecked profiteering, in which internet users suffer the consequence.

The White House recently released a statement opening with “An open internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life,” and proceeded to give full support to increased FCC net neutrality regulation. The President’s statement supported all the main tenets of net neutrality: No blocking content regardless of any commercial affiliations or lack thereof between the ISP and content provider. No slowing down or speeding up of content based on ISP preference. And no paid priorities for large content providers. Yes! This is what America has been asking for, so what is the FCC doing?

The simple answer is nothing.

America wants net neutrality protected legally, and every day that goes by without laws on the books is a day where it is threatened. Few citizens disagree with net neutrality, and most businesses support it as well. The only group to benefit from a lack of net neutrality are the ISPs. They could bring in billions in revenue from selling faster service to large web companies, while internet users get worse service. Currently the FCC’s best “answer” is a proposed set of rules that ensures ISP’s right to open fast lanes and restrict content. And the voting date has been pushed back into 2015, which gives ISPs more time to rally political support.

How is it that the FCC completely disregards the vast majority of citizens and even politicians? Pressure from ISPs can be the only answer. To counter this, citizens need to do their part in securing net neutrality. The FCC has opened a webpage where you can lend your opinion to the proceedings (http://www.fcc.gov/comments). In addition, be an active member of the democracy and support politicians who are pro net neutrality, and send letters to your local representatives.

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