Although the Internet has really only been a part of our lives for the last 25 years, it is hard to remember a time when it wasn’t ubiquitous and available to all. A debate is raging, however, over net neutrality which would allow Internet Service Providers to dramatically change the quality and price of access to the Web.
The host of the HBO series, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” John Oliver asked on the June 1, 2014, show for viewers to contact the FCC website to protest any changes in net neutrality. They did so in droves, causing the site to crash.
What is net neutrality?
Think you should pay more to stream TV or movies online? Or should you have to pay extra to have things download quickly? Internet Service Providers think so. Those two issues are at the heart of the net neutrality debate that is raging across America and the world. Previously, the FCC created three rules for Internet Service Providers:
- Providers should be transparent in how they handle traffic.
- No legal site, service or device should ever be blocked.
- Providers cannot discriminate against providers.
But the D.C. Court of Appeals recently found that the FCC had overstepped their boundaries in creating the rules and that they didn’t have the authority to make Internet Service Providers treat Internet traffic equally.
“Courts, Commission, and Congress Still Struggling with Net Neutrality” for the March 2014 Information Today by George H. Pike wrote that a federal court did “affirm that the Telecommunications Act gave the FCC some authority to regulate the relationship between broadband providers and edge providers, just not in a way that treats broadband providers like backbone networks.”
John Oliver’s FCC website plea
In May the FCC opened a comment period for the public to voice their opinions on the potential changes to net neutrality. On the June 1, 2014, airing of the HBO series “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” the show’s host, John Oliver, urged Internet commenters to take to the FCC website and share their thoughts.
Stephanie Mlot wrote on June 3, 2014, for PCMag “John Oliver’s Net Neutrality Plea Crashes FCC Website” about how John Oliver contributed to the debate. During the episode, Oliver offered a tutorial on the issue of net neutrality, which concluded with his statement, “The point is, the Internet in its current form is not broken. And the FCC is currently taking steps to fix that.” Mlot added that one resolution put forth by supporters of net neutrality was “urging the FCC to reclassify broadband as a telecom service rather than information service, giving the agency more authority.”
What happens next?
The decision over net neutrality is still up in the air. On the side in support of keeping the Internet open and available for all are many big tech companies, such as Google, although their reasoning may be less than pure and more an effort to keep customers happy.
But in “Why the FCC (Might Be) Ditching Net Neutrality” by Josh Harkinson for the Moyers & Company blog on May 12, 2014, Harkinson wrote that another concern for the proponents of net neutrality is a “fear that allowing a fast lane on the Web would hurt startups, nonprofits, activists and anyone else who couldn’t afford to pay the toll.”
Tom Wheeler, the current head of the FCC, has some pretty close ties to the telecommunications industry, having worked as a lobbyist for the industry, as well as president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and leader of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA). His background doesn’t offer a lot of hope that the Internet will stay open to all. Perhaps the recent outcry created by John Oliver will help.
Should Internet Service Providers be able to charge users more depending on the content they are accessing online? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.