Why You Should Care About Net Neutrality

A refrain of buzzwords and acronyms about net neutrality has been everywhere in the news lately: FCC to AT&T, the Court of Appeals and your local ISP.

Politicians in D.C. on either side — champions of free information, or those affiliated with big business — have been heatedly discussing policies that will greatly affect the way that service providers bring your internet to you.

What does this really mean, though, for the average user who wants to access their favorite sites — and to discover new and exciting content — as they always have?

Allow me to paint a scene that, without neutrality, has potential to become real.

You’ve stumbled upon a small corner of the internet, a hidden wealth of independent creativity.  The content is fresh, engaging, and unhindered by the often bland presentation of mass-market entertainment.  A scrappy and useful start-up that just begs for a new audience is working its way to success, and you’re happy to give them the clicks they deserve.  You share it with your friends, and feel satisfaction as you watch unique and worthwhile content appear.  What a relief, when you have 20 different sites offering an identical take, to have a 21st that isn’t afraid to do things their own way.

Then one day, your video isn’t loading like it once was; endless buffering, cut-off halfway, or not even playing. “Well”, you might say, “it’s been a while since I’ve upgraded my internet package”, so you spend a few more dollars to bump your traffic speed up to modern levels.  Excitedly, you sit down to enjoy your favorite site as it was meant to be seen–

And it’s gone.  404, to be clicked no more.

After a little creative digging , you find that your favorite small-time site’s bandwidth had become just a bit too big-time.  Your corporate ISP, who has very lucrative deals with all the highest traffic sites, couldn’t help but notice that they weren’t making any money from these independents, despite the increasing amount of traffic passing through their servers.  

Generously, they gave this indie darling an ultimatum offer: sign with us and share your profits, or understand that there may be consequences.

Hardly an ideal web-browsing future.  How, then, do we balance profit against free access?

What-Every-Internet-User-Needs-to-Know-About-Net-Neutrality-Final

What Every Internet User Needs to Know About Net Neutrality

The news has been buzzing with issues regarding preserving Net Neutrality, but what exactly is it? Where did it come from? Why does it concern you? Here are some of the basics to Net Neutrality.

Net Neutralityis the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally by Internet Service Providers.

Who’s Who of Net Neutrality:

ISPs

  • Provide you with a connection to the internet
  • Against Net Neutrality

FCC

  • Federal Communications Commission regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable.
  • For Net Neutrality

D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

  • Established by Congress, it is the highest court of the District of Columbia
  • Against Net Neutrality (And Against the FCC)

You

  • Use the internet
  • Your choice

THE ISSUE:

How the Internet is today:

  • Your Home
    • ISPs
    • Internet Service Providers (ISPs) give you access to the internet
      • Internet
        • YouTube
        • Blogs
        • Email
        • Games
        • Social Media
        • You can access any website and download from it at the same speed regardless of which website it is.

How ISP’s would like the internet to be:

  • Your Home
    • ISPs
    • Internet Service Providers (ISPs) give you access to the internet
      • Internet
      • ISPs will block certain content and charge extra to use certain services
      • ISPs want to demand a cut from every website in order to funnel that content to customers
        • $
          • YouTube
        • $
          • Blogs
        • $
          • Email
        • $
          • Games
        • $
          • Social Media

ISPs want to set up blocks to:

  • Discriminate: Smaller sites will be harder to access.
  • Double-dip: Network owners want to charge you for Internet access and then charge extra for content viewed.
  • Prevent Competition: Startups and entrepreneurs will have an extra hurdle to overcome in order to compete with larger providers.

The Benefits of Net Neutrality

  • Freedom to create competition
  • Protection against unfair pricing
  • Ability to innovate
  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom to access the information you want

A Brief History of Net Neutrality:

1934

  • Communications Act – to provide for the regulation of interstate and foreign communication by wire or radio, and for other purposes

1996

  • Telecommunications Act – to let anyone enter any communications business — to let any communications business compete in any market against any other.

Jan 12th, 2003

  • “Net Neutrality” is coined by law professor Tim Wu

May 1st, 2006

  • Win for Neutrality: Senate attempts to update Communications Act with a clause about net neutrality

September 1st to November 1st 2007

  • Win for ISPs: Comcast blocks BitTorrent traffic

October 23rd 2007

  • Win for ISPs: Comcast denies blocking BitTorrent

November 1st 2007

  • Win for Neutrality: Public knowledge and the Free Press request the FCC to investigate Comcast’s BitTorrent blocking

January 9th 2008

  • FCC investigates Comcast’s treatment of BitTorrent traffic

August 1st 2008

  • Win for Neutrality: FCC orders Comcast to stop discriminating against BitTorrent traffic

September 4th 2008

  • Comcast appeals FCC order at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

January 8th 2010

  • C. Circuit hears Comcast’s argument against the FCC’s order on traffic discrimination

April 6th 2010

  • Win for ISPs: D.C. Circuit rules in favor of Comcast

August 9th 2010

  • Google and Verizon attempt to create a deal that would differentiate between “the public internet” and “additional online services”

December 21st 2010

  • Win for Neutrality: FCC issues the Open Internet Order

September 30th 2011

  • Verizon challenges the Open Internet Order

September 18th 2012

  • Win for ISPs: AT&T blocks FaceTime on mobile networks unless subscribers enter into a “Mobile Share” plan. Public interest groups insist that AT&T stop blocking FaceTime

January 16th 2013

  • Win for Neutrality: AT&T agrees to unblock FaceTime

September 9th 2013

  • C. Circuit hears Verizon’s arguments over the FCC’s Open Internet rules

January 14th 2014

  • Win for ISPs: D.C. Circuit overturns the Open Internet Rules set forth by the FCC

February 19th 2014

  • FCC tries to create new network neutrality rules

Do you think that net neutrality is a realistic possibility? Or are protesters just spitting in the wind? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Sources

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