Net Neutrality and What it Means for Our Internet Consumption


FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler during his news conference on Thursday regarding his proposal to allow ISPs to charge for “fast lane” internet access. Photo by ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES

Outrage ensues amongst social media outlets after the FCC voted on net neutrality this past Thursday. This will allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to charge Internet content providers at their discretion. Many people have heard the phrase ‘net neutrality’ but few understand the possible implications the new proposal has on our Internet consumption and rights to freedom of speech.

What is net neutrality?

With the current Open Internet Order passed by the FCC in 2010, rules were set to prevent ISPs from putting restriction speeds on any Internet traffic and threatens violations against any ISP that allowed a payments from content providers for increased quality of service. Newly appointed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal aims to undue these rules and allow for ISPs to limit some traffic over others and set premiums for certain

Have you ever been to Disneyland? Do you remember those horrendous lines and agonizing wait times until you could ride Space Mountain while those jerks in the FASTPASS lane leisurely stroll pass you and ride it a half before you?

Well imagine that you’re Space Mountain and the regular line is the brand new Jenna Marbles video with the FASTPASS lane being Tom Wheeler’s twitter feed. This is the new Open Internet Order that Tom Wheeler is proposing.

Under this new plan, the FCC will allow ISPs to have free reign over who gets the best service. This means that Comcast or Verizon could strike a deal with Hulu to allow faster streaming than Netflix if they’re willing to pay a higher premium for priority service. Obviously Netflix has the funds to match whatever Hulu could pay given their market share, but (insert ISP) could potentially provide Hulu with the highest streaming capability available and bring Netflix’s to a grinding halt, regardless of what content providers are being charge.

How do we know this?

Because Wheeler said it. Though not directly, the Chairman wrote in his blog post that prices for fast lanes will be “commercially reasonable.” The issue lies in his attempts to calm down objectors, as his proposal offers no definitive rules regarding rates or protection from discrimination.

Back in December, Wheeler addressed questions regarding his stance on net neutrality and how he believes it needs to be fixed. Starting off with a history lesson on how human networking evolved form the Gutenberg Press to the Internet we use today, Wheeler affirmed, “ As our networks evolve, so should government oversight.” Being a former lobbyist for the cable and wireless phone industries, the newly appointed FCC chairman acknowledged that he is a “rabid believer in the power of the marketplace. But I have seen enough about how markets operate to know that they don’t always, by themselves, solve every problem.”

If this proposal is enacted, the consumer will be the one week pays the price. Content provider giants such as Netflix and Amazon have already released statements opposing this proposal, stating that this could legally enable ISPs to practice discrimination. While directly affecting internet giants by cutting into profit margins, which will inevitably result in higher prices for the consumer, imagine the implications for smaller companies with similar services who can’t foot the bill. If this was 2008 Facebook would have never had taken over Myspace and we’d be stuck checking our bulletin boards, instead of our news feeds.

Luckily, all is not lost yet. Since voting on this proposal, there will be a 120 day period where the FCC will be receiving input and taking replies. This is the time to voice your opinion by sending your comments to the FCC’s website. You can access the form here.

Source: Recode; BGR