Net Neutrality Explained and why it Matters
By Nick Anderson 4 minutes
The internet is a precious resource that only someone born before its inception can truly appreciate and wonder on its significance. The fact is that we take the internet for granted – always there and always consistent. But things would be very different if we did not have Net Neutrality.
As privacy advocates, it concerns us deeply when ISPs interfere in the user’s experience, such as throttling bandwidth or logging internet activities as per data retention rules.
So, what exactly is Net Neutrality? And why has it caught so much attention in the mainstream media over the past two years? That’s what we are here to tell you.
Net Neutrality Explained
Net Neutrality – as the name suggests – envisions an internet that is free and open to everyone, where all internet traffic is treated equal. The term Net Neutrality was popularized by Tim Wu who is a professor at Columbia Law School.
The law sets rule for Internet Service Providers such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T that they will treat all kinds of traffic as equal. Under the Net Neutrality, ISPs cannot block or otherwise throttle the experience in any way.
What Happens Without Net Neutrality?
The internet and the experience as we have come to love and rely on will change. If Net Neutrality was not in place, internet service providers could throttle speed when you access some websites. The ISP would have the monopoly where it would offer “unrestricted” access to platforms it has partnered with.
As an example, AT&T is a telecommunication giant that is set to introduce an on-demand streaming service called HBO Max. The ISP could throttle your speed when you access its competitors’ platform in favor of its own platform. With such possibilities, the companies with deep pockets win, putting budding companies at a serious disadvantage. This is the type of monopoly that Net Neutrality aims to prevent.
And that’s not the end of the nightmare. The ISP would then have the opportunity to offer you “premium” packages that reel you into paying more for an experience you should be getting. The fact that ISPs have fought long and hard to repeal these laws, lends credibility to the preservation of Net Neutrality.
What’s the Status of Net Neutrality Right Now?
Net Neutrality was approved in 2015 during the Obama Administration when Tom Wheeler held the FCC’s leadership. The ruling classified Internet Service Providers as Title II services – common carrier services – allowing FCC to double-down as a regulatory authority.
But opponents to the law did not back down and finally had their big win in April 2017 when Ajit Pai – a Republican under the administration of President Donald J. Trump – took charge as the new FCC chairman, and moved to vote against Net Neutrality. Then came December when the FCC repealed previous laws through the Restoring Internet Freedom order, thus paving the way for a future where ISPs could build special lanes that prioritize internet traffic.
The decision was challenged by Net Neutrality advocates and Mozilla in the Court of Appeals for the D.C Circuit, known as Mozilla v. FCC. The verdict moved in favor of FCC and deemed FCC’s provisions as lawful. However, the D.C Court ruled that FCC was out of its bounds to block individual states from setting up its own Net Neutrality laws. It opened up the possibility for individual states to follow as they see fit.
California, for example, decided to keep Net Neutrality. It was a small victory for the advocates.
Cons of Net Neutrality
Net Neutrality does have some drawbacks. ISPs feel that treating every kind of traffic as equal leaves them with no room for growth. As 4K content is now mainstream and requires huge amount of bandwidth, the user is entitled to consume every kind of data without any special charges. If Net Neutrality was not in place, perhaps ISPs could offer packages aimed at different users.
This is done already where ISPs offer speeds at different packages, but there’s argument that lower end packages could be cheaper for the user – for someone only looking to browse websites and check emails.
By now, you should have a good idea why Net Neutrality holds so much importance if the internet as know must remain. An open and free internet means a fair playing field. It means that innovation can win in the face of competition. The FCC argues that it will be vigilant against unethical practices by the ISPs but there is strong concerns over the extent of its ability to regulate them anymore.
Such as FastestVPN protects your privacy on the internet, Net Neutrality protects the freedom you enjoy.