FCC Net Neutrality

Article by: Joyce Chen

Illustration by: Sung Hee Bae

In a survey of 25 people in ISM, they were asked two simple questions. Firstly, they were asked: “do you use the internet?” With this no-brainer, everyone voted “yes”. But when asked, “do you know what is net neutrality?”, only one person responded with a “yes”, while twenty-four others said “no”.

Net neutrality is the guiding principle of how the Internet should function. It defines an open Internet and protects our right to communicate freely online. According to SavetheInternet, “net neutrality means an Internet that enables and protects free speech. It means that Internet service providers should provide us with open networks — and should not block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks. Just as your phone company shouldn’t decide who you can call and what you say on that call, your ISP shouldn’t be concerned with the content you view or post online.”

Based on the research done by FreePress, net neutrality is “crucial for small business owners, startups and entrepreneurs, who rely on the open Internet to launch their businesses, create a market, advertise their products and services, and distribute products to customers”. So, it is safe to say that we definitely need the open Internet to foster job growth, competition and innovation. The site even argues that, without net neutrality, “the next Google would never get off the ground”.

The argument behind net neutrality originated in May 2014, when Chairman of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Tom Wheeler released a plan that would have allowed multinational telecommunications corporation companies such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon to discriminate online and create pay-to-play fast lanes.

This act disobeyed the rules of net neutrality by potentially allowing cable and phone companies to separate the Internet into different lanes. This could allow these companies to slow down competitor company’s content, cut down communication, and block any disagreeable opinions. In other words, Internet service provider (ISP)s could charge excessive amounts to the few telecommunication companies that can afford to pay for preferential treatment, hence discriminating everyone else who could not afford to a slower internet service. This would destroy the idea of an open Internet.

Thanks to public protest and outcry, according to USAToday, on Feb. 4, 2015, Wheeler announced that he would “base new net neutrality rules on Title II of the Communications Act, giving Internet users the strongest protections for rules prohibiting discriminatory practices possible”. And on Feb 26, 2015, just last week, FCC approved Wheeler’s decision, thereby blocking paid prioritization and securing a victory to those who have fought for protecting the open Internet. Even though a lot of students may not even be aware of the existence of net neutrality, it is definitely a fundamental right that needs to be understood for keen Internet users.