During the past few months, net neutrality has been a major political issue, but many are still uninformed as to what it’s all about.
On Dec. 23, 2010, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) introduced the Open Internet Order which, according to the FCC, “requires transparency and prohibits blocking and unreasonable discrimination to protect Internet openness.” These rules were challenged in federal court, and on Jan. 14 of this year, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the FCC’s authority to regulate broadband Internet access. It also upheld the FCC’s judgment that Internet openness encourages broadband investment and that its absence could inhibit broadband deployment.
On May 15 of this year, the FCC began making new rules while seeking public opinion on how to protect a free and open Internet. Among the proposed rules is a rule that allows internet providers to have “fast lanes” for individuals and companies that pay a fee to have a faster, more reliable Internet connection. Providers could intentionally slow Internet speed down for those who do not pay the fee. One such case has already been reported. Comcast reportedly slowed servers for Netflix when the company refused to pay a fee. When Netflix learned of its users’ service being slow, a settlement was quickly reached between Netflix and Comcast. These rules not only affect big online companies such as Netflix, Google or Amazon, but also affect individuals as well.
In addition to these internet fast lanes, internet providers can choose to censor the internet. With everything that’s on the Internet, it doesn’t sound all that bad until one realizes that that’s what communist countries like China and North Korea do to their population. In order for the Internet to truly be free and open, it cannot be censored in any way.
President Obama recently stated, “More than any other invention of our time, the Internet has unlocked possibilities we could just barely imagine a generation ago. And here’s a big reason we’ve seen such incredible growth and innovation: Most Internet providers have treated Internet traffic equally. That’s a principle known as net neutrality, and it says that an entrepreneur’s fledgling company should have the same chance to succeed as established corporations, and that access to a high school student’s blog shouldn’t be unfairly slowed down to make way for advertisers with more money.”
Net neutrality is not an issue of liberal versus conservative either. Democrats and republicans alike are pushing for the FCC to make policies that are in favor of net neutrality. Although it is far from a unified effort, both democrats and republicans in Congress have expressed concerns with the proposed FCC policies that are being debated. We all know how well Congress has worked together in the past, and if both parties are actually agreeing on something, that should really get our attention.
Net neutrality is a cause that everyone can get behind regardless of political stance, and we at The Pacer firmly believe that the Internet should be open and free. We shouldn’t have to pay an extra fee for decent network speeds and the same information that we’ve always had access to, nor should we be censored in any way.