I sometimes like to ask myself a few basic questions when being introduced to a controversial topic. “What is the underlying cause to this discussion and what is the real question or concern?” I can easily tell you what the underlying cause of this topic is and that cause is fear. Most of the time it is! However, what is the real question here?
“Is this fear of ending Net Neutrality justified or unmerited?”
First, we need to define what Net Neutrality is and why it exists… or existed. Net neutrality is the principal that Internet service providers (ISPs), must treat all data shared over the Internet the exact same. This means they cannot charge differently in any way by the user, content, website, platform, application, attached equipment, or method of communication. Basically, ISPs cannot discriminate data in any way.
This seems rather important, right?
Well, you are right! It IS important! But legislation doesn’t stop loopholes and cunning smooth-talkers. For example, in July 2017, Verizon Wireless, one of the largest telecommunications companies that offers wireless products and services, was accused of throttling after users noticed that Netflix and YouTube videos were slower than usual. However, they came back commenting that they were simply conducting “network testing” during those times and that net neutrality rules permit “reasonable network management practices.” But how do you define “reasonable”? How do you enforce if it’s truly a network management practice or if they are being dishonest to their advantage?
AT&T was also breaching net neutrality by limiting the iPhone's FaceTime service to everyone other than those on its new, more expensive shared data plans. The company came back stating that it wasn’t in violation because the FaceTime application comes pre-installed on the iPhone and they were reserved the right to enforce “some reasonable restrictions” to manage expected traffic congestion that this application caused. Again, this is a great example of companies using their own interpretation as a fail-safe measure to defend against the allegations.
The widely noted example of net neutrality violations was when Comcast (ISP) started secretly throttling uploads from peer-to-peer file sharing, until the FCC ordered them to stop. Another smaller example was when a North-Carolina based telephone company in the early 2000’s blocked the ability of its consumers to use Vonage, because it directly competed with their own services. By directly forcing people to continue to use specific services from one company, even though there are alternate resources available, it is evident that net neutrality is necessary.
But what is really at stake here? Will the internet and source of information die? Must we all go back to a hunter-gatherer economy and retreat into our caves?
The recent voting to end net neutrality wasn’t actually a vote to end net-neutrality. It was to end specific regulations on net neutrality made in 2015 that allowed the government to have as much involvement in internet regulation as possible. This provided the seemingly infallible control that made everyone sleep better at night.
But did it really do anything?
You tell me. Has there been any difference in accessing resources on the internet from 2000-2015? What about from 2015-2017. What about now? The reality is that if ISPs started limiting information and made people pay a higher amount for “full access” there would be anarchy. This is where it starts bleeding into free speech, which is hands-down the most important right anyone can have. The bottom line is that ISPs haven’t put limitations on information and resources even before the newer regulations in 2015. And if they did, it’s quite certain that the free market wouldn’t choose that ISP for their internet services. With this statement in mind, it’s more prudent to discuss the competition of ISPs and make sure that there is healthy competition in the marketplace for people to choose which is the best.
Further research links to articles on the topic:
It all boils down to who has access to what on the internet. That is the underlying statement. And the answer is that everyone should get to access everything the internet has to offer, without having to pay tiered prices for it. Ultimately, people will determine and enforce that answer… not the government. Businesses will make business decisions to lower and raise prices and the people will inevitably choose a different provider or a more reasonable path in the marketplace. All this conversation is doing is allowing people to complain and fight for something they had from the very beginning.
Or I can be completely wrong and you’ll never be able to read this entire article because the limi…
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