Net Neutrality – A Review

With another net neutrality vote in the news, this seems like a good time to review the issue. Most people are familiar with the term, but many people aren’t clear on the details. Here are the basics in simple language.

What is “net neutrality”?

First of all, “net neutrality” is not a law. It’s a concept, much like freedom of speech. “Net neutrality” is the idea that all content on the Internet should be treated equally, regardless of whether it comes from a large company, a small startup, or an individual blogger. Basically, an ISP doesn’t have the right to limit your access to online services.

It’s a simple idea, especially because it’s the only kind of Internet we’ve ever known. But without some regulations by the FCC, there’s nothing to say the Internet has to stay that way.

With so many people cutting the cord, an ISP that also provides cable tv service might slow their customers’ connections to streaming tv providers, to encourage people to use their tv service. Large companies that have more money for advertising and partnerships might make agreements with ISPs to prioritize traffic to their own sites over their competitors, making it much more difficult for small startup companies to get off the ground.

Why do ISPs oppose net neutrality rules?

Mostly because they see it as an overly burdensome regulation. The FCC’s rules made Internet access into a commodity service – like a utility – which is not always the most profitable product. ISPs are in business to make money, after all, and regulations tend to make that more difficult.

Who supports net neutrality rules?

A lot of tech companies, including Amazon, Google, Facebook, Netflix, and many more, support net neutrality because the open Internet is what allowed them to grow and prosper. They believe other small businesses and online innovators should have the same opportunites.

The two sides disagree on what the real-world effects of net neutrality rules would be. Proponents insist that keeping the Internet open will lead to economic growth and innovation, while opponents say that is an idealistic view, and that the regulations could have unintended side effects. The controversy continues at the FCC, with another vote expected in December 2017.

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