Net Neutrality Have You Confused? You’re Not Alone!
Is the Federal Communications Commission’s decision for tougher net neutrality rules really worth celebrating? Well, it depends on who you ask. If you’ve heard this term before (perhaps on the John Oliver show last summer), but you’re still unsure about where you stand or why it matter, we have a rundown of the basics as well as some thoughts on why no one in America will even notice the change after the landmark decision by the FCC.
“Turn on caps lock, and fly, my pretties!” ~ John Oliver
What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is the idea that internet service providers should enable access to all content – regardless of the source – without favoring or blocking particular products or websites. For example, serving the content of certain companies faster because they pay more. Net Neutrality is about the government regulating the internet similar to it does other utilities – like water and power. Basically, Net Neutrality == an open and free internet.
What Did the FCC Do this Week?
The FCC enacted new rules (explained here) that will help prevent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Comcast and Time Warner from charging more to certain content providers, creating different levels of internet speed depending on how much the cable behemoths were paid. Some are saying the measures put in place (with language like ““just and reasonable”) is too vague and will be hard to enforce.
Why is Comcast Not Happy?
Well, their argument (that they’ve spent tens of millions to make sure Washington knew about) centers around the fact that they don’t currently charge content providers different rates. However, if you watch the John Oliver clip above, you’ll see that Netflix speeds DID go down during negotiations with Comcast. Oliver likened it to a Mob shakedown. On the other hand,
Well, sort of. What Netflix and Comcast are really fighting over is something called “interconnection” or “peering,” where sites with especially heavy traffic have to pay more for extra capacity. Comcast says Netflix should be charged for using additional resources, whereas Netflix thinks it’s being strong-armed into forking over more than it should.
The new net neutrality regulations give the FCC some oversight over these agreements to determine if they’re “just and reasonable,” but that standard is so vague as to make an already complicated issue difficult to enforce. In Chairman Wheeler’s proposal, broadband providers are allowed to pretty much do whatever they want as long as they defend their actions as “reasonable network management,” which, as The Verge points out, is “a term which the ISPs have already been using to justify congestion at interconnection points.”
Will Congress do Anything to Stop It?
This is an interesting question. While they could, they likely won’t try. According to Deadline, “Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) have both said they’ll try to stop the rules from going into effect. The FCC rules still need to be approved by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs before they go into the Federal Register. However, with millions of people saying they want the regulation and President Obama saying he would veto any attempt by Congress to stop the Net Neutrality rules from going into effect, the Republican-led Congress is not likely to even try.
Will my Internet Cost go Down?
Alas, most likely not. The Net Neutrality decision by the FCC will not immediately affect internet speeds or cost. If you look at the data, the United States has some of the slowest and priciest internet connections found in the world. Well, we’re better than a lot of the third world, but many other countries are well ahead of us when it comes to fast, cheap internet. A lot of this has to do with the lack of competition when it comes to internet service providers in the U.S. We’ll get into that a little more below.
The SSL Takeaway
No, this story doesn’t relate to SSL in any easily recognizable way. With that said, Net Neutrality is an issue that affects us all, and will be around for years to come. John Oliver was able to rally a lot of people to take action and let the FCC know they wanted a free internet – not to mention all the other activists who worked hard for months on end – but don’t think for a moment that the behemoth corporations are going to stop spending money to get their way. Net Neutrality is still a complex issue that needs to be watched.
While lax regulation of the internet may be better for some large corporations (i.e. the service providers), a lot of other mega-corps (like Google, Amazon and many others) have rallied behind net neutrality. The idea that the growth of the internet is going to slow down because of regulation by the FCC is ridiculous on many levels. Comcast is second in line (after the military-industrial complex) for corporate spending on lobbyists in Washington.
Many questions remain – like why there is so little competition. Almost a third of Americans have no choice for their Internet Service Provider – a number that may rise if Comcast merges with Time Warner. When so called “last-mile unbundling” was passed over, the chance for more competition was decreased. Still, some regulations on the internet to protect against large corporations is better than none. At least for now.
Hopefully, we haven’t just slapped a band-aid onto a massive problem, hoping it goes away.
Do have a Net Neutrality party planned? Or are you cautiously waiting for what happens next? Either way, leave us a comment below and let us know!