Net Neutrality

What some people, including government officials, may not understand.

Obtained via Google Images from

In a time where misinformation is prevalent and disinformation is pushed to all corners of the Internet, we are at a fork in the road. In one direction, an Internet protected by rules and laws to enforce consumer choice and reduce monopolistic practices; in the other, an Internet ungoverned and controlled by Internet Service Providers such as AT&T and Comcast. Net neutrality is defined as “the concept that broadband Internet service providers should provide nondiscriminatory access to Internet content, platforms, etc., and should not manipulate the transfer of data regardless of its source or destination” [1].

Some opponents of net neutrality feel that the FCC insitituting net neutrality rules or “Title II is “a trojan horse,” primed to unleash “heavy government control of the internet and create marketplace uncertainty.”” [2] Others, like SVP of Verizon Michael E. Glover, claim that “Heavily regulating the Internet for the first time is unnecessary and counterproductive. It is unnecessary because all participants in the Internet ecosystem support an open Internet, and the FCC can address any harmful behavior without taking this radical step.” [3] What Mr. Glover does not realize is that not all participants in the Internet ecosystem support an open Internet because they differ on the definition of “open”.

What the opponents fail to see through their very myopic view of this issue is that Comcast and others have already put in place harmful behavior such as forcing content providers, like Netflix, to pay them for the privilege of allowing data on their network as Comcast claims it’s a “congestion” issue. [4] Comcast, among others, have also instituted data caps per month on their customers. Data caps have been proven to be nothing more than a money grab and do not at all relate to the efficiency of their network or other consumer-based reasons, with Mediacom SVP Joseph Young even admitting that the Internet is like Oreos and “You have to pay extra for double-stuffed”. [5] The problem with that mentality is that it is rooted in the physical production of consumer goods. Data has no such physical production — the economy simply doesn’t apply.

The other issue at hand, one which is very sensitive by its very nature, is that of “he who controls the information, controls the world.” At the point in which Comcast, AT&T, and others, are allowed to effectively shape the Internet traffic at will to their customers, they effectively control the information. They can choose to pick winners and losers of content. They can decide that Republican ideals or Democratic ideals, among many other philosophies, are the only ones they will allow on their network. They can decide that Christianity is the only religion allowed to be researched on their network. They can decide — anything. As consumers, if we had effective choice of our Internet providers, this would lessen the issue some because we would then simply go to another provider, one that provides neutral access to information. However, a large portion of people in the United States live where there is a single choice for Internet access. Single choice is the same as no choice, thus a monopoly. Monopolies do harm in two main ways: 1) innovation grinds to a halt; and 2) the consumer ends up paying whatever the monopoly decides and takes whatever quality of service the monopoly decides.

The reason Title II exists, and the TCA1996, is to provide a governance over physical communication monopolies such as the wired telephone system or coaxial cable system. [6][7] The Internet infrastructure is very close to being in that category and is in that category for millions of people in the United States. Title II protects consumer interest by not allowing monopolies to price gouge or provide sub-standard quality of service. Net neutrality is a way of providing rules similar to that of Title II, without moving Internet services into Title II territory completely. It provides the notion that Internet providers cannot interfere in any way with the integrity of data or packets between the source and the destination. This means that the providers cannot choose winners and losers of content providers. It means Comcast cannot limit which websites their customers can view or which service, such as Hulu or Netflix, are available or have priority. Simply put, it keeps choice of services in the hands of consumers especially when they have no choice of the access to those services.

Lastly, net neutrality keeps the Internet a level playing field for existing businesses and new entrepreneurs. Without net neutrality, paid prioritization of services becomes the standard and will ultimately push out any small businesses that cannot afford to have their services move to the top of the heap that providers will allow. [8] The current FCC net neutrality rules in place protect small businesses and consumers alike, however, with the new Donald Trump administration, it is currently unclear which direction it will go, but “The make-up of Trump’s FCC transition team is among the biggest clues that a reversal of federal policy is likely. His appointees include Roslyn Layton, Jeffrey Eisenach, and Mark Jamison, all of whom have argued against the existing net neutrality rules.” [9]

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