Definition of Net Neutrality and Effect of Its Absence

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In December of 2017, the Federal Communications Committee repealed net neutrality in a decision that sent shockwaves throughout the country. With this decision, the landscape of the Internet was drastically altered, and its effects will be felt for years to come. But what is net neutrality, and why is its absence so detrimental for the Internet?

According to law professor Tim Wu, net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers, otherwise known as ISPs, should treat all content and applications equally without discrimination (Wu).

Although the term “net neutrality” was coined by Wu in 2003, its origins can be traced to Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, which introduced the idea of the “common carrier” in the context of equally-routed phone calls (Sydell). In 1996, the FCC revised the Communications Act and made a distinction between telecommunications and information services, with the agency having more regulatory power over the former (LaFrance). The classification of broadband internet as either a telecommunications or information service has been a matter of contention for the FCC, who has changed its stance multiple times throughout the 2000s (LaFrance).

In the years leading up to 2015, the FCC began exercising stricter regulations regarding net neutrality, going to the extent of punishing companies such as Comcast for violating net neutrality rules (Finley). On March 12, 2015, they issued an order that prevented ISPs from throttling, blocking, or implementing paid prioritization in their services (Finley).

But just two years later, Trump-nominated chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, led the movement to repeal this decision (Finley). Pai argued that government regulation of the internet via net neutrality laws was an unfair encroachment of power, and insisted that the abolishment of such policies would yield benefits such as increased innovation (Finley).

Other advocates for the repeal of net neutrality argued that content with real time requirements, such as livestreams and topics of significant importance, like health data and stock info, took priority over other types of content (“Info. and Regulation II: Net Neutrality and Privacy,” Oct. 30).

On December 17, 2017, Pai got what he wanted, and the FCC board of commissioners voted to repeal net neutrality rules in a 3 to 2 vote along party lines (Finley). This decision generated tremendous controversy, and people expressed their discontent all over the Internet. Celebrities tweeted their concerns. Burger King even ran an ad about the decision. And these reactions were warranted.

With net neutrality gone, ISPs now have the ability to decide what services to provide at faster rates (“Info. and Regulation II: Net Neutrality and Privacy,” Oct. 30). Because they hold termination monopolies over end users, they can charge companies termination fees to access Internet fast lanes (Wu). On the flipside, they can also charge customers extra to access certain services, which can be found in the form of bundles (“Info. and Regulation II: Net Neutrality and Privacy,” Oct. 30). In essence, ISPs now serve as gatekeepers of information who can block and throttle content at will while prioritizing services that are in their best interests.

These implications of net neutrality’s repeal eliminate the long-standing notion of the Internet being a level playing field. Contrary to what Pai has argued, the absence of net neutrality will most likely harm innovation. Companies with more money have more power, and as a result, it will be difficult for small companies and startups to compete, as their products cannot be promoted as effectively without the proper funds (“Info. and Regulation II: Net Neutrality and Privacy,” Oct. 30).

Furthermore, today’s society demands that people have access to the Internet, and those who do not suffer the consequences by being left behind financially and socially (“The Digital Divide, Part 2,” Nov. 13). If ISPs privilege those with more money by providing them better services, those who are unable to afford them will be further removed from their rights to equal opportunity.

According to a survey conducted by the University of Maryland, support for net neutrality is bipartisan (“Overwhelming Bipartisan Majority Opposes Repealing Net Neutrality,” 2017). The freedom of the internet is something many people enjoy and it is the reason why commercially-influenced platforms such as cable television have declined in popularity. But unlike cable television, the Internet offers so much more space for creativity and sharing, and to take away these defining characteristics will only stunt innovation and progress.

Cite this paper

Definition of Net Neutrality and Effect of Its Absence. (2021, Jun 23). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/definition-of-net-neutrality-and-effect-of-its-absence/

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