Net neutrality is a relatively new idea that the government should force internet service providers to treat all data equally regardless of where it comes from or who accesses it.
Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments regulating the Internet should treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication
The National Cable and Telecommunications Association urged the Federal Communications Commision (FCC) to adopt the four principles they explained in their Internet Policy Statement. These principals were optional at the time, but paved the way for future implementation of what would become known as ‘Net Neutrality’.
- Consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice;
- Consumers are entitled to run applications and services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement;
- Consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network; and
- Consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.
The commissioner of the FCC claimed he was “ready, willing and able” to adopt and enforce regulations that would prevent internet service providers from interfering with subscribers internet access.
President Obama passed a stimulus package known as the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” which invested 7.2 billion in broadband infrastructure and came with a stipulation of an ‘open internet’.
The FCC approved the ‘Open Internet Act’ which mandated Internet Service Providers operate under the following six principles.
- Transparency: Consumers and innovators have a right to know the basic performance characteristics of their Internet access and how their network is being managed;
- No Blocking: This includes a right to send and receive lawful traffic, prohibits the blocking of lawful content, apps, services and the connection of non-harmful devices to the network;
- Level Playing Field: Consumers and innovators have a right to a level playing field. This means a ban on unreasonable content discrimination. There is no approval for so-called “pay for priority” arrangements involving fast lanes for some companies but not others;
- Network Management: This is an allowance for broadband providers to engage in reasonable network management. These rules don’t forbid providers from offering subscribers tiers of services or charging based on bandwidth consumed;
- Mobile: The provisions adopted today do not apply as strongly to mobile devices, though some provisions do apply. Of those that do are the broadly applicable rules requiring transparency for mobile broadband providers and prohibiting them from blocking websites and certain competitive applications;
- Vigilance: The order creates an Open Internet Advisory Committee to assist the Commission in monitoring the state of Internet openness and the effects of the rules.
After trying to enforce the ‘Open Internet Act’ during ‘FCC vs Verizon’ a federal judge ruled against the FCC after they were unable to prove that Verizon was a ‘common carrier’. As a result, the FCC amended the ‘Open Internet Act’ giving them the power to enforce the six principles against all major Internet Service Providers.
Currently American internet service providers must adhere to all Net Neutrality principles, but the future is far from certain. Net Neutrality regulations are not supported by most Republicans who control both sides of Congress and the White House. The recently appointed chair of the FCC, Aji Pait has stated that he intends to ‘take a weed wacker’ to current regulations, benefiting major internet service provider shareholders, as well as major internet players like Facebook, Netflix and Google.
If Net Neutrality is eliminated, Internet Service Providers will be able to charge a ‘toll’ that only the largest companies would be able to pay, putting many start ups out of business and preventing future start ups from ever starting.
A one second throttle could easily drive all traffic from smaller businesses who host their own sites to any competition who decides to use a platform like facebook to share information.
Despite the obvious short term benefits, companies like facebook, Netflix and google fully support net neutrality as they would have never survived their early years without it.