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There has been lots of discussion about net neutrality lately. Even President Obama has voiced his opinions on this ongoing debate about “net neutrality.” Read on to find out what is net neutrality and why should you care.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is the concept that whoever you receive internet through — be it Verizon, AT&T, Bright House, Time Warner, Comcast, etc. — should transmit all of your data in the same manner regardless of its origin or what affiliations your provider may have with the transmitting company or website.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the sole U.S. agency in charge of upholding the laws that support network neutrality in the United States. However, there are outside influences that are working to alter these laws in order to better serve their agenda.
Internet service providers (ISPs) are in control of how we receive our data from communicators, and the FCC wants to make sure that they are not at liberty to abuse that control.
How is Net Neutrality at Risk?
Major telecommunications companies now have the technology to examine all of the data and information that we send and receive through the internet. For example, websites, e-mail, phone data, and even social media are capable of being monitored by your internet provider. This information gathered by the service providers can be used to assess or determine how much of their customers use a particular website or digital service, which can then be used to leverage deals with these websites and companies.
Internet service providers essentially have the power to interfere with incoming traffic from communicators as they see fit. This could include slowing down or completely blocking communications from communicators that they do not like, or even speeding up communications with those that pay them. Presently, broadband service providers are considered “information services,” so they are not required to offer the same services to everyone and every company.
The Legality Behind Data Manipulation
On January 14, 2014 the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision on a challenge that was posed to the Federal Communications Commission’s policies and regulations on network neutrality, and the court ruled that this policy overstepped the bounds of the Federal Communications Commission.
This means that the Federal Communications Commission must take legal action to uphold network neutrality, or “open internet,” otherwise major telecommunications providers will be within their right to interfere with internet communications to leverage their own profits and relationships with other companies.
For example, one of the FCC policies overturned by circuit court prevented internet providers from charging websites like Spotify or Pandora extra money to stream their data faster to customers. This competition between similar companies and websites will create a state exclusivity among internet service providers and the websites available through their connections.
Service Providers Flexing Their Power
Instances of the major internet providers flexing power can already be observed, as Comcast has already started to show its strength and the effect it can have on customers’ internet connections. Comcast is looking at different ways in which it can sell CDN services, which can ultimately help websites increase their data delivery speeds to consumers.
Providers could make profits at both ends of the spectrum — from the traditional subscriber model and from web-based companies that are seeking to deliver their content faster and more reliably to those subscribers. The obvious problem, however, is that it’s more than likely that internet providers will begin to flex too much muscle over their subscribers and severely unbalance the landscape of the internet.
What You Can Do to Preserve the Fairness
There are several steps the public can take to combat the unbalancing of the internet and preserve the openness of the internet as we know it. One way to prevent the demolition of network neutrality is to increase competition among major internet service providers.
If there are a larger number of internet providers to choose from, it will prevent any one provider from gaining control over large amounts of people and skewing the internet. Competition can be promoted by supporting internet providers that aren’t necessarily elite telecommunications companies. Diluting the potential power of these major companies may be the answer to the evolving internet that we need.
Another way of taking action is simply letting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) know that it should protect internet consumers and network neutrality by reclassifying internet providers as telecommunications services.
They are not obligated to provide the same exact services to every single company or consumer, which makes a legal case challenging against these providers. Redefining the services could make for a stronger case in court and it could eventually be supported in a court of law. There are several websites dedicated to supporting network neutrality and protecting internet users’ rights to a leveled internet.
The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote February 26th on a new set of network neutrality policies on Title II of the Communications Act, which would give consumers the best possible protection against broadband providers. It’s essential to do your own research and find out exactly how these changes could affect your internet services with your respective provider.
The internet is possibly the greatest tool of our time, and its future is dependent on the next steps taken by our government to ensure its fairness and balance.