Neutrality is a hot topic in the news recently and it is openly debated in
social and political circles, especially over the past few months. Net
Neutrality is the concept that Internet service providers have to allow equal
access to all content and applications, regardless of the amount of bandwidth,
the source or the nature of the content (Laudon  & Laudon. p. 270). This concept
is debated as government has weighed in on enforcing and repealing Net
Neutrality, depending on the administration. The book chronicles some of the history
of the Net Neutrality debate, but so much has happened since the book leaves off
in 2014 that we will try to round out the story. The Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) has been at the heart of the Net Neutrality debate since the
beginning. 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 their
data processing activities over that of other companies (Wu, 2017). This was
established to ensure open competition was possible even though AT&T was
the largest communications company at the time. Indirectly, these became the
first Net Neutrality laws, because as the internet became a household
necessity, the FCC’s rules were applied and enforced by the government (Wu,
2017). As the internet grew, new applications such as VPN and streaming media
content caused internet providers to chaff at rules requiring them to provide
all content equally.   However in January 2014, the US Court of
Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the FCC was not allowed to
require that the internet be open to all (net neutral), because they were not
allowed to regulate the internet since it was not classified as a telecommunications
service under their jurisdiction (Laudon  & Laudon. p. 270). The debate
didn’t end there though. In April 2014, the FCC proposed new rules that would
allow companies to pay internet providers for special, faster lanes to send
content such as videos to their customers. The proposed rules would not allow
providers to block web sites, but instead it would set up faster lanes for
companies 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 and
strengthen Net Neutrality rules with the creation of Title II of the Telecommunications
Act (Wu, 2017). Title II re-classified broadband service as a utility, thus
giving the FCC permission to govern it. The rules prohibited internet service
providers from blocking websites or apps, slowing down data based on the nature
of the content or creating fast lanes for companies or customers willing to pay
more (Collins, 2017). This act was in effect until December 2017, when under
the Trump administration Net Neutrality was repealed (Collins, 2017).

Neutrality has the potential to affect every one of us. For example, if you are
a heavy internet user, streaming games or movies from your phone or computer
then you wouldn’t want to your service provider to be able to cap your content
or slow down your service because they don’t want to provide the incremental
bandwidth. Also if you are a new startup company, you wouldn’t want service
providers to slow down access to your website unless you are willing to pay a
steep premium to be part of a “fast lane”. No Net Neutrality gives service
providers the ability to decide where you go or how much you pay to access the
parts of the internet, at the speed you want. However the argument to remove
the Net Neutrality rules harkens back to the idea that government shouldn’t
regulate free enterprise. Internet providers want the freedom to conduct
business without regulations or government control.

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