Understanding Net Neutrality

When I lived and worked in the Middle East, certain internet sites were blocked because they violated the countries' laws (pornographic sites, gambling sites, certain video game sites, streaming sites, etc.). Here, in the U.S. our internet service providers or ISPs are required by law, to not block any webites for any reasons. In otherwords, the internet is to remain open and companies are not allowed to block sites in order to get customers to pay more.

In 2015, the Federal Communication Commission or FCC reclassified high speed internet as a public utility--a public good, including it in Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. That means they internet service providers are considered a "common carrier". Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers ISPs should allow access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites. 

What is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality is actually quite simple. Net neutrality is keeping the internet open by requiring all data be considered equal. Thus, forbidding ISPs from blocking certain traffick or slowing down internet speed in order to charge higher prices. Politicians, however, have severely complicated the issue with rhetoric and misinformation. Scientific American gave an excellent explanation:

It's the idea that all Internet data should be equal. That the Comcasts and Verizons of the world can provide the pipes but should have no say in what passes through them. The Internet providers shouldn't be allowed to charge different companies more or less for their data or to slow down, or block, access to Web sites and services they don't like.

Argument For Net Neutrality Laws

Supporters of Net Neutrality believe:

  • Net neutrality promotes innovation in tech, allowing a free and open internet that is accessible to everyone
  • Net neutrality protects consumers/users by preventing ISPs from selecting websites to block or throttle data. If ISPs are allowed free reign, it is probable that they will try a few things they've already tried in the past, including:
  • Net neutrality allows small ISPs to compete with large ISPs through innovation

Argument Against Net Neutrality

Opponents of Net Neutrality believe that:

  • Not all data is equal and companies should pay their fair share of the internet.
  • Internet companies like Netflix and Skype are taking up too much data.
  • Open internet stifles competition and innovation.
  • Shouldn't have government involvement.

Those who are opposed to Net Neutrality argue that consumers' fears of ISPs abusing their power is unfounded. History, unfortunately, proves otherwise. FreePress compiled a list of Net Neutrality violations by ISPs like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T, doing the very thing they want us to believe they would never do. These violations include throttling data, blocking ports and websites and redirecting internet users to the browser of their choosing.

In January 2017, the FCC's policy to uphold the laws of Net Neutrality shifted with the appointment of Ajit Pai as chairman of the FCC. Pai, who served as a lawyer and lobbyist for Verizon seems to still be protecting Verizon's interests and not the U.S. the interests of consumers and businesses. Almost immediately after his appointment, Pai got to work on repealing Net Neutrality. And on December 14, 2017, Congress voted to repeal the internet's Title II status, reversing net neutrality. Luckily, Pai has yet to finalize the repeal. This gave the U.S. Senate time to vote on May 16, 2018, to reverse the vote to repeal Net Neutrality. I know. It's a lot. 

What the Senate Vote Means

The U.S. Senate voted 52-47 to put the FCC's Net Neutrality rules back in place. This doesn't mean that Net Neutrality is law of the land once again. The House of Representatives also have to vote on it. It's unlikely, however, that it will pass the House because of the $101 million ISPs Verizon, AT&T and Comcast contributed to politicians campaigns and PACs. 

If you're still unsure of how Net Neutrality will affect you directly, imagine having to choose your internet like this:

 Source: ajitpai.com  This is not a real Verizon package, only a visualization of what a package could look like should Net Neutrality be eliminated.

Source: ajitpai.com
This is not a real Verizon package, only a visualization of what a package could look like should Net Neutrality be eliminated.

Small businesses could be charged exorbitant fees to build websites on WordPress, Squarespace. Video game prices could rise because of the reliance on online gameplay. This in addition to consumers having to pay more for an internet package that will allow them to play video games.

The laws that govern ISPs are very necessary in order to preserve a free and fair internet. And this is where we need your help to ensure our internet remains free and equal. Vote. Midterm elections are vastly approaching. If you support keeping the internet open, vote out those politicians who would see Net Neutrality dismantled. 

Tell us what you think about Net Neutrality in the comments.