Net Neutrality Explained

Net neutrality is a controversial topic these days. It boils down to keeping the internet free for all. The net neutrality controversy has two sides (each with its own implications): support of or opposition in government regulation of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to prevent unchecked control. Let’s go more in-depth and explore both sides of the argument. 

An Argument For Net Neutrality

Those who are for net neutrality believe regulation of ISPs is needed. In their opinion, internet sites should be charged equally, regardless of bandwidth usage. They think that unless there are regulations, certain sites will receive preferential treatment by Internet Service Providers (ISPs). They also fear that ISPs could choose to throttle site traffic or block sites altogether. They argue that without net neutrality start-ups wouldn’t be able to compete with more established companies. A case can be made that Facebook would not have survived because the more established Myspace might have negotiated with ISPs to double connection speeds to their site, thus stifling Facebook’s growth. When it comes to politics, net neutrality supporters believe that ISPs who selectively support certain candidates could choose to slow down or block access to an opposing candidate’s website.   

An Argument Against Net Neutrality

Those who are against government regulation of ISPs believe the internet should be charged similarly to how electricity (a public utility) is charged: the more bandwidth you use, the more you pay. They believe leaving the power to the ISPs will allow for more competition and innovation among the ISPs to provide faster internet. “Unfair or bad faith practices by ISPs can be addressed by existing antitrust laws,” stated John Gabriel with PragerU. 

Those against regulation of ISPs are also concerned that net neutrality standards and laws could lead to more extensive government control of the internet, which could threaten the free nature of the internet.

The History of Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality was born in 2003 when a Columbia University law professor, Tim Wu, wrote a paper about online discrimination. Wu was concerned that the ISPs would limit new technologies from growing. Later, comedian John Oliver got behind the net neutrality movement and encouraged his viewers to file complaints with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC ended up receiving 21.9 million comments which crashed their website. Under the Obama administration in 2015 the FCC passed a broad net neutrality order. This order was reversed in 2017 under the Trump administration.  After the reversal, again the FCC received a flood of comments. This time, however, it was noted that a large number of comments came from bots, not people. Now the regulation of net neutrality is being determined by Congress, the courts, and the states. 

Should ISPs be allowed to control internet traffic or is there a need for government regulation? Should internet services be charged like a public utility, or should there be a flat rate for all internet use? Does net neutrality really mean what its name implies or is there more to the picture? These are among the many questions raised around the net neutrality issue. Now is the time to investigate net neutrality and determine your own stance before the next election. Your vote could affect the future of net neutrality.

Interested in how net neutrality affects cybersecurity? Check out this article!