Net Neutrality is also referred to as the "Open Internet." The Internet as we know it at least appears to be open and treats all traffic pretty much the same. I've never heard someone complain about not having access to any lawful content on the Internet. An open Internet has made it possible for innovators to innovate and startups to start up.
Best I can tell, some think this is about to end. It appears our Internet Service Providers have been cutting deals with content providers. Deals that appear to favor their content over others. Deals that speed the transmission of their data over my data. Is this wrong? Is it wrong to charge those who use more of the Internet more than you and I are charged? Maybe.
Net Neutrality: Some History
In 2010, the Federal Trade Commission (FCC) issued an order requiring ISPs to be transparent. The order prohibited blocking and discrimination in an effort to protect Internet openness. This order was challenged in federal court and four years later, in January 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the Commission's authority to regulate the Internet. In its order, the court upheld the transparency rule, but did not uphold the blocking and no-discrimination rules.
In response, the FCC decided it was going to make some rules and sought public comment. A record setting 3.7 million comments poured in over the four-month commenting period. The overwhelming majority of the comments urged regulators to keep the Internet open. Many are concerned that if net neutrality is not protected innovation will be hurt as small startups will be decimated by their inability to reach a larger audience because of their inability to pay for the much-needed bandwidth.
As is often the case these days, the "transparency" word is being thrown around by both sides of the argument. Some argue the ISPs are already being transparent in their actions while others argue the FCC rules would make certain that ISPs are transparent about the Internet traffic they handle and whether they are blocking otherwise legal content in favor of content companies are paying for. Without some sort of regulation, the argument goes, the Internet could become an incredibly expensive place resulting in content sharing being limited to only those who can afford to pay for it.
President Obama Speaks Out
President Obama took a stand on net neutrality last week fully supporting a proposal to classify broadband Internet service as a Title II utility. The White House added a page to its website describing President Obama's plan and telling us what he believes:
More than any other invention of our time, the Internet has unlocked possibilities we could just barely imagine a generation ago. And here's a big reason we've seen such incredible growth and innovation: Most Internet providers have treated Internet traffic equally. That's a principle known as "net neutrality" - and it says that an entrepreneur's fledgling company should have the same chance to succeed as established corporations, and that access to a high school student's blog shouldn't be unfairly slowed down to make way for advertisers with more money.
With this statement as the foundation of his plan, the President laid out bright-line rules:
No blocking. If a consumer requests access to a website or service, and the content is legal, your ISP should not be permitted to block it. That way, every player - not just those commercially affiliated with an ISP - gets a fair shot at your business.
No throttling. Nor should ISPs be able to intentionally slow down some content or speed up others - through a process often called "throttling" - based on the type of service or your ISP's preferences.
Increased transparency. The connection between consumers and ISPs - the so-called "last mile" - is not the only place some sites might get special treatment. So, I am also asking the FCC to make full use of the transparency authorities the court recently upheld, and if necessary to apply net neutrality rules to points of interconnection between the ISP and the rest of the Internet.
No paid prioritization. Simply put: No service should be stuck in a "slow lane" because it does not pay a fee. That kind of gatekeeping would undermine the level playing field essential to the Internet's growth. So, as I have before, I am asking for an explicit ban on paid prioritization and any other restriction that has a similar effect.
Just Another Tax on Consumers?
Mike O'Reilly, a member of the Federal Trade Commission predicts Internet users will have to pay a new federal tax if President Obama's plan is approved. Obama's plan call for telecommunication companies to pay fees to the FCC's "Universal Service Fund." O'Reilly predicts these fees will be passed on to consumers. "Consumers of these services would face an immediate increase in their Internet bills," O'Reilly said last week.
O'Reilly also quoted Tim Wu as saying, "Ultimately, consumers always pay for everything, no matter what we say otherwise."
"By pushing unnecessary regulations forward, the FCC would be increasing the cost of Internet service for all users, hurting consumers and job creators," O'Reilly told FoxNews.com.
There Is a Voice Against Net Neutrality
Earlier this year, Todd Wasserman wrote an article published at Mashable.com, listing the top five arguments against net neutrality:
1. It gives the government more power over the Internet
2. It's not a free market solution
3. Little regulation has worked fine until now
4. Classifying the Internet as a common carrier service wouldn't have the intended effect
5. Charging everyone the same price isn't fair
More recently, Senator Ted Cruz has come out against net neutrality and been lambasted for his position. Cruz has compared net neutrality to Obamacare saying, "In short, net neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet. It would put the government in charge of determining Internet pricing, terms of service and what types of products and services can be delivered, leading to fewer choices, fewer opportunities and higher prices."
What Do You Think?
So, what do you think?
Are you for or against net neutrality, and why?
Do you think those who use more should pay more, or should everyone pay the same?
What do you think about O'Reilly's statement on the new federal tax?
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