The term ‘net neutrality’ was first coined in a 2003 paper, reflecting a battle that was just beginning to brew (Finley). This term gained traction in the early 2000s when internet providers, other known as ISP’s, started banning users from creating their own virtual private servers, setting up personal Wi-Fi routers, and even blocking phone calls on the internet.
A few years later in 2008, Comcast was caught throttling speeds of BitTorrent connections and was ordered by the FCC to cease. Following a year later, AT&T was caught for blocking iPhone users from making Skype calls, which led to the FCC halting this act. Late 2010, the FCC approved the FCC Open Internet Order which introduced six net principles; transparency, no blocking, level playing field, network management, mobile, and vigilance (Preserving the Open Internet).
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Over the course of four years, the FCC released a new proposal including new rules on allowing fast lanes and slow lanes. With serious backlash the FCC received 1.1 million comments on just the first day, determining that less than one percent of comments opposed net neutrality, with a total of 3.7 million comments left (Lannon). This ultimately led to the FCC passing the Title II Net Neutrality Rules in 2015 to a 3-2 vote. These rules applied to both wireless and wired internet connections, classifying ISP’s as common carriers. Three years later net neutrality was officially ended, due to the FCC repealing net neutrality. Now that net neutrality is dead, California along with some other states, have started to pass their own bills that breathe life back. Net neutrality is essential to protecting the users of the internet, not give more power to Corporations who want to control it.
Net neutrality seems like a good concept with no flaws, but there are some arguments that believe it creates negative impacts for the United States. The ISP’s that are making this argument, claim the competing companies like Netflix, Google, YouTube, and other big users of bandwidth are not paying for the fair share of use. The ISP’s have spent billions to build the internet, while these companies use their infrastructure for enormous amounts of data. They want to charge higher fees to the biggest bandwidth users, affording to build fiber networks that give the ability for all kinds of new services. While this argument seems appealing and without faults, this goes against protecting innovation. If these big companies could pay for preferred treatment, this would put startups at a major disadvantage. Big companies already pay big money to get an edge on latency and bandwidth, so paid prioritization’ is already happening on a large scale and consumers benefit from it(Coldewey). As it turns out, paid agreements already exist for network management, and net neutrality does not affect it. What net neutrality does though, is protect us from big companies making sweetheart deals while still charging the competition more money.
The reasons for needing net neutrality outweigh the cons. When the internet was created, a neutral and fair access to all content for the focus for all users. This meant that ISP’s should be providing an equal connection regardless of the amount of data used. The advocates for net neutrality believe it protects innovation. By keeping big corporations from paying for special treatment which protects startups. President and CEO of Internet Association Michael Beckerman as filed to FCC, In a world without net neutrality protections, startups would face discrimination from ISP owned or preferred content that’s granted a speed advantage throughpaid prioritization (Beckerman). This would harm competition, making it possible for companies like Netflix or YouTube to not succeed. As history has shown, AT&T and Comcast have both been known to throttle speeds and block services, therefore discriminating their competition. Without net neutrality, it would have continued to happen which goes against innovation.
Proponents of net neutrality argue a neutral net is essential for free speech by prohibiting ISP’s from blocking content. Blocking websites that disagree with their financial viewpoints is possible without net neutrality. The internet has become our source for news and information, while the FCC currently is trying to change that. The internet is what allows users to create news and have conversations with anybody across the Earth. Websites are able to publish both popular and unpopular viewpoints which have to be treated equally. In 2014, President Obama stated that An open Internet is essential to the American economy has been one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known content if considered legal should not be blocked by the ISP(Obama).
Without the protection of net neutrality, those with money could afford the fast lanes of internet broadcasting their opinions before opponents are able. Activists, artists, and outsiders typically without resources, left just the slow lanes. Many advocates of net neutrality, look to China for an example of free speech eliminated without net neutrality. China censors content that is critical of their government or opposing of their economic beliefs. Using techniques that scan URLs and content for blacklisted keywords. As Chris Hoffman wrote, By blocking foreign social networking sites like twitter forcing their citizens to use alternatives. This leads to gaining the ability to censor posts, allowing China to hire people who are paid to post content favorable in attempts to sway public opinion (Hoffman). If free speech cannot be protected on the internet, who is to say the internet might not see some of these censorships.
Net neutrality is essential to protecting free speech and creating a level playing field for everybody. Without it, the possibility of censorship and services you may use could be banned. Opponents of net neutrality claim the companies who use enormous amounts of data should be charged adequately. Currently, these companies already pay a fee for prioritization, but net neutrality is needed to prevent sweetheart deals from happening. Our potential liberties are at stake, and a handful of states are fighting to bring net neutrality rules to protect them.
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