On Thursday, Feb. 26th, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) voted and approved the controversial policy of the Open Internet, commonly known as net neutrality.
This issue started in May of 2014 when the FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, proposed a plan. This plan would allow internet providers, such as Comcast, to discriminate online content and create pay-to-play fast lanes. In simpler terms, this means that if some companies, such as Netflix, wanted faster service for their customers they would have to pay a little extra, possibly having to raise the price for their customers.
While no one really wants to pay more for Netflix or for other companies like it, the extra cost would not be a huge issue for a large company such as Netflix. For start up companies who mostly rely on their websites for business, they would not be able to afford to pay extra for faster internet speed. Since they would not be able pay the higher cost, the amount of traffic on the website would decrease, causing the companies to not be able to advertise their business.
Wheeler’s plan was poorly received by the public from the time it was proposed in May to when it was revised in February. Blogs, such as Everybodyontheinternet on tumblr.com, were created to inform the public of Wheeler’s proposal and to create petitions to tell the FCC that the general public did not approve of the plan. Firefox browser also added a link to a petition on the browser’s automatic homepage. Internet companies, like Google, Microsoft, eBay, and Facebook sent a co-authored letter to Wheeler voicing their disagreement with his proposal.
Some students, such as Samantha Stoll ’18, were also not pleased with this proposal.
“As a frequent user of the Internet, I have always been very attached to the idea of free Internet. I was shocked at the idea that it could be taken away,” said Stoll.
In early February, Wheeler listened to the public and revised his original proposal. He would now give Internet users stronger protection by banning throttling, blocking, and paid priority. The new proposal passed, though barely. The final vote on net neutrality was 3-2, with the dissenting voters being Michael O’Reilly and Ajut Pai. O’Reilly and Pai argued that the FCC was overstepping its authority and interfering with a problem that did not exist.
So what exactly does net neutrality mean? It means that Internet service providers can not discriminate between companies by blocking or slowing down content while offering priority for those willing to pay extra. It also means that requirements will be put into place that will protect consumer privacy and make sure that the Internet is available to people with disabilities or who live in remote areas.
“I’m relieved the FCC passed the net neutrality proposal. It’s been a public resource for so long that it’s hard to imagine how they could put restrictions on it. I think they made the right decision on it and I hope this puts a halt on future attempt to commodify the web,” said Stoll.
However, the battle for net neutrality is not over yet. Cable companies, like Comcast, and phone companies, like Verizon, are using their lobbyists and allies in congress to undo this policy. For more information on how to join the action against overturning net neutrality, visit http://www.freepress.net/action.