NetNeutrality is a hot topic in the news recently and it is openly debated insocial and political circles, especially over the past few months. NetNeutrality is the concept that Internet service providers have to allow equalaccess to all content and applications, regardless of the amount of bandwidth,the source or the nature of the content (Laudon & Laudon.
p. 270). This conceptis debated as government has weighed in on enforcing and repealing NetNeutrality, depending on the administration.
The book chronicles some of the historyof the Net Neutrality debate, but so much has happened since the book leaves offin 2014 that we will try to round out the story. The Federal CommunicationsCommission (FCC) has been at the heart of the Net Neutrality debate since thebeginning. In the 1970s AT&T had a monopoly on the communications space,and so the FCC established some rules that required AT&T to not favor theirdata processing activities over that of other companies (Wu, 2017). This wasestablished to ensure open competition was possible even though AT&T wasthe largest communications company at the time. Indirectly, these became thefirst Net Neutrality laws, because as the internet became a householdnecessity, the FCC’s rules were applied and enforced by the government (Wu,2017). As the internet grew, new applications such as VPN and streaming mediacontent caused internet providers to chaff at rules requiring them to provideall content equally.
However in January 2014, the US Court ofAppeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the FCC was not allowed torequire that the internet be open to all (net neutral), because they were notallowed to regulate the internet since it was not classified as a telecommunicationsservice under their jurisdiction (Laudon & Laudon. p. 270).
The debatedidn’t end there though. In April 2014, the FCC proposed new rules that wouldallow companies to pay internet providers for special, faster lanes to sendcontent such as videos to their customers. The proposed rules would not allowproviders to block web sites, but instead it would set up faster lanes forcompanies willing to pay more. These rules though were not enacted. In 2015,under the Obama administration, the FCC chair Tom Wheeler was able to reenact andstrengthen Net Neutrality rules with the creation of Title II of the TelecommunicationsAct (Wu, 2017).
Title II re-classified broadband service as a utility, thusgiving the FCC permission to govern it. The rules prohibited internet serviceproviders from blocking websites or apps, slowing down data based on the natureof the content or creating fast lanes for companies or customers willing to paymore (Collins, 2017). This act was in effect until December 2017, when underthe Trump administration Net Neutrality was repealed (Collins, 2017).NetNeutrality has the potential to affect every one of us. For example, if you area heavy internet user, streaming games or movies from your phone or computerthen you wouldn’t want to your service provider to be able to cap your contentor slow down your service because they don’t want to provide the incrementalbandwidth. Also if you are a new startup company, you wouldn’t want serviceproviders to slow down access to your website unless you are willing to pay asteep premium to be part of a “fast lane”.
No Net Neutrality gives serviceproviders the ability to decide where you go or how much you pay to access theparts of the internet, at the speed you want. However the argument to removethe Net Neutrality rules harkens back to the idea that government shouldn’tregulate free enterprise. Internet providers want the freedom to conductbusiness without regulations or government control.