If you’ve paid any attention to the news in the last year or so, you have likely heard about net neutrality. This hot topic has caused much debate and frustration among many of us. But what is net neutrality, and why does it even matter? Let’s explore net neutrality and it means for you.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net neutrality is the principle that stipulates that internet providers must allow customers access to all their content and they cannot promote or block certain products or content from their service. This means that all customers have access to every video, image, article, website, etc., that is available on the internet. Companies cannot charge you more for accessing certain websites or for using certain media such as videos or audio.
Why Do We Have Net Neutrality?
In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held a vote to pass the Open Internet Order. The foundation of this debate was based on Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, which discusses common carriers. During the debate and vote in 2015, the internet was reclassified under Title II and allowed the FCC to create and enforce an open internet. This new order prevented internet providers from blocking or charging additional fees for specific content on the websites.
The FCC was led by Chairman Tom Wheeler, who was appointed by President Barack Obama. The decision to hold the vote began months before it took place, as the FCC heard public comments.
What Does It Mean for Me?
Net neutrality provides for an open internet, but does it really make a difference in your day-to-day life? What does it actually mean?
Under net neutrality, you have freedom in the content you view, stream, and access. Your internet provider cannot block or even slow down certain websites or media. Basically, your internet provider cannot choose what type of service you use to search the web, stream video, and even connect with friends and family on social media.
Without net neutrality, many people are concerned that internet service providers will begin charging for tiered internet services. This means you will have to choose specific internet packages based on your internet activity. With this business model, you could have to pay more money to utilize specific websites, such as Netflix or Facebook.
In 2017, Ajit Pai was appointed chairman of the FCC and he proposed to repeal net neutrality. In December 2017, a vote was cast to repeal the Open Internet Order and it passed. This meant that any rules designed to regulate and enforce a free and open internet were dissolved.
Internet service providers could block online content, slow down speeds based on packages or content, and even give some websites priority over others. Many proponents of the repeal say this will provide access to more free content because they can charge larger companies more for their services. It can also decrease online criminal activity such as piracy by placing more regulations and blocking certain actions. Others disagree and say it gives more power to the big companies and hurts small startups.
The topic of net neutrality is a popular one, and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Now when you hear the latest net neutrality buzz, you’ll be prepared to jump into the debate and voice your opinion.