You may have heard the words “net neutrality” on the news recently, but what does that phrase actually mean? It is a big topic that can be complicated at times.
Net neutrality is the concept that Internet service providers (ISPs) must treat all data they transmit the same way. This means that they will not block or slow down some of their network. They also can not charge more money for faster network speeds.
If there were no net neutrality laws in place, you might have to pay for every Internet service separately. For example, it might cost $30 for your email to function, another $30 for social media. Then, yet another $30 for video such as YouTube and Netflix. On top of all of that you will have to pay an extra $50 to get decent network speeds. Otherwise, you will be in the “slow lane” and served last.
Sadly, these are not just hypothetical scenarios. There have been several cases where ISPs have done these things. In 2004, Madison River Communication in North Carolina was fined $15,000 after it blocked Voice over IP (VoIP) service from a competing company. In 2008, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sanctioned Comcast for slowing down and sometimes completely blocking file transfer traffic on its networks.
On February 26, 2015, after more incidents and much public outcry, the FCC reclassified broadband Internet as a telecommunications service. This made Internet service providers common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 and section 706 of the Telecommunications act of 1996.
Since 2015, Internet service providers have spent millions of dollars lobbying congress and the FCC in an attempt to get them to roll reverse that decision.
On December 14, 2017, the FCC repealed the rules they put in place back in 2015. Individuals and advocacy groups intend to sue the FCC to challenge the repeal. Currently, it’s a waiting game to see which direction this issue will go: if the hypotheticals will become reality or if neutrality will be legally reinstated.
(Image source: iCLIPART)