The Pros and Cons of Net Neutrality
The recent buzz in the internet world has been the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) move to repeal the Net Neutrality rules set in place back in 2015.
If you’re asking “What is exactly is Net Neutrality?”, then you’re not alone. There are many people out there who don’t understand the effects of repealing this rule. Whether or not repealing Net Neutrality is the right decision is not for us to say, but here are the facts to help you understand what happened last week when the vote to repeal the rule passed.
Net Neutrality is essentially “free, open internet.” It’s the ability to search content as you see fit, putting you in control of your internet experience at no extra cost. It means that internet service providers (ISP), like Comcast or AT&T, must provide equal access and speed to all content on the internet and apps despite the source. It goes back to 2015, when the “FCC voted to classify consumer broadband service as a public utility under Title II Order of the 1934 Communications Act (ABC News).”
If the current regulations are removed, a potential outcome could be paid prioritization, defined as “a telecommunications company charging an additional fee to transport a video stream or other content at a higher speed through its network (LA Times).” This means that ISPs may “carve out services” to be fast or slow depending on what a business pays. For instance, Netflix may be required to pay a fee to stream their content at a faster speed. The benefit to this is that companies who CAN afford and NEED faster speeds, like self-driving cars, can get it. The downside is that if a competitor doesn’t pay enough or perhaps doesn’t pay at all, then their content might be slower or even inaccessible per the discretion of the ISP. This could be detrimental to small businesses and startups who wouldn’t be able to compete against larger corporations online. Major ISPs like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, etc., claim they would disclose preferred websites and not censor content, but without the current regulations, there is nothing stopping them.
Those opposing the repeal say it could also cost more on the consumer side, and may result in paying for packages to access certain apps or sites like this example from Portugal who currently don’t have Net Neutrality in place (see photo). It could also mean that streaming Sunday’s football game would cost you more if you want to see it without dealing with network congestion.
Some are going as far to say repealing Net Neutrality is an attack to free speech.
On the other side…
Those supporting the repeal of Net Neutrality claim the rule currently hinders innovation, job creation and free market competition. If we were to remove the regulations and allow for the option of “fast lanes,” dividing internet speeds into packages, then we would better support new levels of innovation like streaming 4K video, the internet of things, virtual reality, self-driving cars, etc. All of these new technologies would be better served with the ability to increase speed for items that need it (like streaming a tv show), while using slower speeds for things that don’t (like accessing an article). The same LA Times article referenced earlier also states, “Supporters of fast lanes say they would encourage the development of innovative new services, as well as investments in expanding and improving wireless and fiber networks that would increase internet access and overall data speeds.”
An interesting opinion article in Fortune for the repeal of Net Neutrality talks about these ideas in further detail. The author states that repealing Net Neutrality and replacing it with regulations that support innovation and fair competition, while still protecting the consumer is the solution.
Whether you support Net Neutrality or not, it’s important to be fully informed on the pros and cons before taking a firm stand. We hope this article was enlightening. Check out our other educational blogs here. And if you ever need IT services support then don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at SaalexIT.