by John Rudy
For a few years, there has been a fair amount of coverage regarding what is called “net neutrality.” Unless you tend to pay close attention to the computer world, you may be unaware of what this is or how it matters to you. The Obama administration took a position on NN two years ago, and the Trump Administration has already announced that they are going to reverse it (presumably after the community has an opportunity to provide comments). But this is something that is important to you, so here is some information that should enable you to follow net neutrality issues in the press.
What is Net Neutrality? The principle that Internet Service Providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites. Some governments regulate Internet services in the same ways that their public utilities (electricity, gas, and water) are regulated. This also involves limiting providers and regulating the options they can offer.
The Issues: Can a service provider slow down or speed up your service because it is better for them or because you pay them to do it?
- Could Netflix pay Verizon to provide more bandwidth to their movies?
- Could Verizon give more bandwidth to a service they provide compared to what is being made available to a competitor?
- A widely-cited example of a violation of net neutrality principles was when Comcastwas secretly slowing (“throttling”) certain uploads. Comcast didn’t stop blocking these protocols until the FCC ordered them to do so.
2014 Obama decision
For three months, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) received 3.7 million comments to change the Internet to a telecommunications service, which would allow the FCC to uphold net neutrality. In February of 2015, the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality by reclassifying broadband access as a telecommunications service applying Title II (common carrier) of the Communications Act of 1934 as well as section 706 of the Telecommunications act of 1996 to Internet service providers. In April of 2015, the FCC published the final rule on its new regulations which took effect on June 12, 2015.
What is the FCC Doing Now?
FCC Chairman Pai claims he wants to end the “utility-style regulatory approach” to the Internet and “re-establish” the power of market forces in regulating the Internet. Details of his proposal include the reclassification of broadband access as an information service and a decrease in legal regulations on Internet service providers.
Pai says the reversal will increase infrastructure investment and innovation among broadband companies. In his proposal, he also suggests redirecting authority from the FCC to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to oversee privacy practices. Pai advocates ending the broad Internet conduct standard that allows the FCC to intervene if they deem that a broadband provider either acts in a harmful fashion or is anticipated to do so.
In a 2-1 decision on May 18th, the current FCC voted to proceed with the motion to scale back the net neutrality protections put in place in 2015.
- In April 2017, an attempt to compromise net neutrality in the United Statesis being considered by the newly appointed FCC chairman, Ajit Varadaraj Pai. In May, a process began to roll back Open Internet rules that had been in place since 2015.
- A decision will be made soon and whether or not the FCC takes the millions of comments seriously will be known in time.
- See https://www.aclu.org/feature/what-net-neutrality for a lot of information favoring net neutrality.
- Who wants net neutrality? Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Netflix
- Who is opposed to net neutrality? National Cable and Telecomm Association, AT&T, Verizon, Comcast
I don’t trust the cable providers. If they think that they can make more money by selectively providing better service to someone who will pay them more, they will. The FCC can’t wait until there is a violation and then spend months, or years, to address it. Then if Comcast, say, takes money from Netflix to move their movies faster than, say, Hulu, will you switch your service to Netflix? Netflix doesn’t want to be put in the position where they have to pay off the many service providers. See the names above for who is pro and who is against the change.
A long-time computer expert and guide, John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature. In the comment box below, provide questions or comments for John on any computer/tech topic .