What is net neutrality? It’s the concept that the Internet has operated under since its inception. The Internet was founded and has operated as an equal access medium for all. But that may change if Federal regulators have their way. A new proposal from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would give large corporate Internet providers an advantage in Internet speed leaving smaller companies and individuals with limited Internet access.
Pay for Internet speed
In an April 25, 2014, interview with Democracy Now, retired FCC Commissioner Michael Copps shared these comments:
- The proposed regulation by the FCC would allow the one percent to get the fast lanes while the 99 percent would be delegated to the slow lanes on the Internet. A move which could be tantamount to no Internet access.
- Large Internet providers like Verizon and Comcast could charge content providers like NetFlix or Amazon extra fees for faster speed in delivery of their content.
According to Copp, the Internet, which is the most transformative communications technology in all of history, was meant to be our own town square of democracy.
“And to shackle it now and to not have clear rules of the road going ahead […] if we let that happen, we have really undercut the potential of this transformative technology. This has to be stopped,” Copp declared. “The only way we’re going to put a stop to going down this road is citizen action.”
Internet for all
It isn’t surprising that the FCC is pushing this kind of regulation. The current FCC chair, Tom Wheeler, was previously a lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The FCC’s Open Internet rules enacted in 2010 protected users from discrimination in delivery of content. Network neutrality is supposed to assure that users can access any information they choose without restriction. Any such regulation affects transmission at the logical layer, or the layer where the information flows from publisher to user.
Dana D. Bagwell compiled her own research on the concept of network neutrality for her book, “An Open Internet for All: Free Speech and Network Neutrality.”
According to Bagwell, “The rules thus assure that the public will continue to have uninhibited access to the vast diversity of information online, a government interest well-accepted in First Amendment jurisprudence. In essence, network neutrality rules simply direct that network owners not block non-proprietary content at the logical layer.”
What it means to you
If companies are going to be charged more for high speed access, then you can assume that the costs will be passed on to you. Think you won’t be affected? Think again. How many companies do you deal with over the Internet?
Edward Wyatt took a look at the potential fallout if these new regulations go into effect in his April 24, 2014, article for the NewYorkTimes.com, “Lobbying Efforts Intensify After F.C.C. Tries 3rd Time on Net Neutrality.”
“Businesses that use Internet connections to provide consumer services — obvious ones like Google and Netflix but also home alarm system providers, medical equipment companies and even makers of washers and dryers — will thrive or fail based on how much it costs them to maintain easy online contact with households and businesses,” Wyatt stated.
Net neutrality around the world
The U.S. is unique in its move to dilute net neutrality. On April 3, 2014, the European Parliament passed a net neutrality bill that forces Internet providers to treat all traffic the same. On April 23, 2014, Brazil signed into law a digital rights bill that protects user privacy and guarantees equal access. Other countries that have net neutrality laws include Chile, the Netherlands and Slovenia.
What can you do?
In an April 25, 2014, post for SavetheInternet.com, “It’s Time to Launch the Biggest Protest the FCC Has Ever Seen,” Josh Levy outlined actions you can take to prevent the loss of net neutrality in the U.S.
“We need to call the FCC, call our members of Congress, write letters to our local media, and get everyone we know involved. It will take a movement of grassroots activists, everyday Internet users, tech companies, and everyone else who has a stake in the open Internet to make this happen,” Levy said.
You can learn more about what you can do at SavetheInternet.com.
You can read more about Internet law and legislation in the U.S. on Questia.
What do you think about the net neutrality legislation? How will it affect you? Tell us in the comments.