The Future of a Neutral Internet
January 10, 2017
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In today’s age of increased technological reliance, new rules must come into place to ensure the best possible state of the Internet for everyone. One such regulation, approved by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) on Feb. 26, 2015, served to protect Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is the idea that all internet traffic is created equal. It dictates that an internet service provider (ISP), such as Verizon or Comcast, cannot determine what traffic to speed up or slow down.
Under newly elected President Donald Trump, Net Neutrality’s existence is threatened. Recently the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate decided not to approve a second term for Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. This leaves a vacant seat to be filled with one of Trump’s appointees, toppling the Democratic majority that existed during Obama’s presidency. Trump, a known foe to Net Neutrality and similar internet regulation, is set to appoint a Republican candidate who would undoubtedly strive for the reversal of the FCC’s ruling. Net Neutrality is a crucial keystone in the development and protection of the open internet and must not be destroyed for the sake of our nation’s technological future.
In recent years, ISPs have started to create their own content distribution platforms. For example, Verizon has its own on-demand internet streaming service. Without Net Neutrality, Verizon could slow down a customer’s internet speed to any other competing on-demand internet streaming service, such as Netflix. This would unfairly encourage customers to use Verizon’s own streaming service and stifle competition in the video streaming market. With Net Neutrality in place, ISPs like Verizon would lose their unreasonable advantage and be forced to actually innovate to draw users to their platform.
As stated on the FCC website, Net Neutrality ensures that “broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind.” Fundamentally, this means that ISPs cannot charge Internet companies for faster speeds. According to Silicon Valley news outlet Recode, larger companies like Google and Netflix could handle this charge, while smaller emerging companies would have a difficult time competing.
With the Net Neutrality regulation, ISPs were also reclassified as telecommunication services instead of information services. This action was specifically requested by President Obama in his call to the FCC to support Net Neutrality. Obama stated that the FCC should “recognize that for most Americans the Internet has become an essential part of everyday communication and everyday life.” As telecommunication services, ISPs are regulated more like utilities, such as electricity and water, than private media companies. This reclassification means that ISPs no longer have the right to block legal content that they do not agree with. It removes their right to “edit” the internet. Net Neutrality and the reclassification ensure that the internet remains open and free for all.
Not everyone is in favor of Net Neutrality. Republican Senator Ted Cruz on Twitter made the absurd claim that “‘Net Neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet.” Many who oppose Net Neutrality believe that any regulation from the government on the Internet will hinder competition and innovation. This simply is not true. By allowing ISPs to hold discriminatory powers over websites and content, innovation is crushed. How could the next Facebook possibly emerge if “fast lane” fees or speed throttling are allowed to eat away at new sites while they are in their infancy?
Trump must not be allowed to endanger Net Neutrality. If our next president appoints a commissioner who intends to dismantle Net Neutrality, the American people need to make their voices heard, just as they did in the protests leading up to the February 26 FCC decision. The government must firmly know where the people stand on this issue to make sure that Net Neutrality is not destroyed. As current FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, “The internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules.”