A News Report on Net Neutrality: Past, Present, and Future

Net neutrality fosters an internet where sites are equal in loading speed and classifies it as a utility like the phone service. 1 It supports many commercial uses consumers like to indulge in such as streaming, uploading, and downloading.

Recognizing that the internet has an important aspect in many people’s lives, on February 26, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) categorized the internet as a common carrier or company that produces and gives its products to consumers. 2,3   The decision to classify it as a common carrier allowed government regulation of the internet.

 

FCC’s Fight for Net Neutrality

Before February 2015, there were no explicit set rules for net neutrality. It wasn’t until 2007 when Comcast decided to prevent its consumers from uploading on BitTorrent that the FCC stepped in. 4

In 2008, the FCC ruled that Comcast illegally prevented its customers from using BitTorrent. 5   In 2009, the FCC urged ISPs to have transparency in their network to consumers, asked ISPs to give all websites and apps an equal footing with each other, encouraged ISPs to have a reasonable network management, and promised to monitor and challenge ISP management. 6

In 2014, the FCC changed their standpoint on net neutrality saying that ISPs can make websites or internet services such as Netflix, Disney, or Hulu pay more for faster speeds, but President Barack Obama stepped in and suggested that the FCC classify the internet as a common carrier under the Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. 7, 8

As a common carrier, this would prevent throttling, blocking, or slowing down specific sites. With this classification, the internet is an open source that allows people the freedom to visit whichever site they wish without an ISP obstacle. 9

Online streaming websites such as Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, and YouTube profited by this FCC and Obama win. 10 According to Fortune.com, Netflix noticed that ISPs extracted certain shows from their line.

However, after the 2015 ruling on the internet, ISPs, the Cable and Mobile Phone industry took a hit. Comcast and Charter Communications say that net neutrality robs them of making money on streaming websites such as YouTube, Netflix, or Hulu. Additionally, phone companies such as Verizon and T-Mobile have worked tirelessly on allowing their customers the ability to stream videos without charging their data. The 2015 agreement may put phone companies in a difficult spot. 10

Because it included people’s general interest in using the internet as a source of information, the 2015 FCC decision on the classification of the internet was a public sphere approach. In 2015, the FCC clearly had citizens in mind.

The Current Push to Roll Back Net Neutrality

With Trump’s success in presidency, Ajit Varadaraj Pai became the new FCC chairman.

On April 26, 2017, Pai announced that he will repeal the classification of the internet under the Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. 11

On May 4, 2017, Pai told NPR that the FCC shouldn’t give out preemptive regulation on the internet as opposed to moderation after an incident. He believes that “after-the-fact” regulation is better because the FCC is adjusting rules as incidents occur rather than expecting an illegal attempt.

Pai said that FCC should not regulate the internet as a common carrier, but rather regulate the competitiveness among social media and wireless communication companies. Pai believes that Google and Facebook are competitors to wireless cable and broadcast companies because they provide services such as voice calls, messaging, and streaming video. 12

According to The Hill, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) created the Restoring Internet Freedom Act, which will stamp out the FCC’s 2015 decision. 13 Republicans such as Rand Paul (Ky.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Tom Tillis (N.C), Ben Sasse (Neb.), and James Inhofe (Okla.) want to roll back the FCC’s decision on the internet. 14

If Lee has his way, companies that stream videos such as YouTube, Netflix, and online software weblogs such as WordPress might pay up to show their videos, which might affect prices on these services. The losers of Lee’s Restoring Internet Freedom Act are the customers who use such internet services.

When this bill passes, ISPs, Cable and Phone industries, and people who are for this bill will throw their hats in cheer. According to Joseph Turow the author of Media Today, ISPs have said they needed more money to get certain websites to consumer’s eyeballs due to the quantity of bandwidth (pg. 177).

Because The market model focuses on reducing people into consumers and gaining profits, this push to revert the FCC ruling on the internet is founded on the market model.

My Position on the Issue

Because it’s a service that provides people with information, the internet is a common carrier.  Like how they use their electricity, there are different ways to utilize the internet.  Shows on Netflix or YouTube provide entertainment and education. Students use the internet to research for projects, people watch how-to-videos on YouTube, and couples lay down to watch Netflix.

People are more than just commodities who would dole out money for something they already had. There will be a huge backlash against the Restoring Internet Freedom Act. If people had to pay money for faster videos or streaming shows, it’s possible they would boycott the internet.

People and companies who want to make a difference in the world make YouTube videos to reach the most people such as School of Life, Crash Course, Feminist Frequency, or TEDx Talks would suffer under the Restoring Internet Freedom Act.

In addition, musicians who have based their entire music career on their free YouTube videos such as Peter Gundry, Porcelain Black, and doddleoddle would have to find another way to display their work.

Under this bill, other people create websites to start their business especially through companies such as WordPress or Squarespace where creating and uploading videos is an option would have to pay more for their videos or not use videos at all.

What’s scary about the Restoring Internet Freedom Act and Pai’s unclear “after-the-fact” plan on net neutrality is that when these decisions have passed, ISPs, Cable, and Phone companies are not going to stop squeezing out money from their customers. Since the internet has become a vital resource for people at work, home, and school, this would not only halt would-be start-ups, but due to the expense of a faster internet, prevent people from learning, growing, and engaging online.


References:

  1. Turow, J. (2017). Media today: an introduction to mass communication (6th ed.). New York: Routledge.
  2. Open Internet. (2016, August 25). Retrieved May 11, 2017, from https://www.fcc.gov/general/open-internet
  3. Common carrier define. (n.d.). Retrieved May 11, 2017, from https://www.google.com/search?q=common%2Bcarrier%2Bdefine&oq=common%2Bcarrier%2Bdefine&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.6496j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
  4. Comcast Blocks Some Internet Traffic. (2007, October 19). Retrieved May 11, 2017, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2007/10/19/AR2007101900842.html
  5. Declan McCullagh (2008, August 01). FCC formally rules Comcast’s throttling of BitTorrent was illegal. Retrieved May 11, 2017, from https://www.cnet.com/news/fcc-formally-rules-comcasts-throttling-of-bittorrent-was-illegal/
  6. Federal Communications Commission FCC 09-93 Before … – Wired. (n.d.). Retrieved May 11, 2017, from https://www.bing.com/cr?IG=46EC223FBA78418EAAB741FFA3232E68&CID=3CABB7710D9260850D21BD0E0C0261EC&rd=1&h=xwoWxs1_CA6JA0T7Znc8kte4ABFTdDeH8yOfbNxbwxw&v=1&r=https%3a%2f%2fwww.wired.com%2fimages_blogs%2fbusiness%2f2009%2f10%2ffcc-09-93a1.pdf&p=DevEx,5061.1
  7. Cook, L. (2014, August 8). FCC Proposed Net Neutrality Change Sparks Internet Rage. Retrieved May 11, 2017, from https://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2014/08/08/fcc-proposed-net-neutrality-change-sparks-internet-rage
  8. Wyatt, E. (2014, November 10). Obama Asks F.C.C. to Adopt Tough Net Neutrality Rules. Retrieved May 11, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/11/technology/obama-net-neutrality-fcc.html?_r=0
  9. Communications Act of 1934 1 COMMUNICATIONS ACT OF 1934. (2014). Retrieved May 11, 2017, from https://transition.fcc.gov/Reports/1934new.pdf
  10. Roberts, J. J. (2016, June 15). The Winners and Losers From the Big Net Neutrality Ruling. Retrieved May 12, 2017, from http://fortune.com/2016/06/15/net-neutrality-winners-losers/
  11. Kang, C. (2017, April 26). F.C.C. Chairman Pushes Sweeping Changes to Net Neutrality Rules. Retrieved May 11, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/26/technology/net-neutrality.html
  12. Selyukh, A., & Greene, D. (2017, May 05). FCC Chief Makes Case For Tackling Net Neutrality Violations ‘After The Fact’ Retrieved May 11, 2017, from http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2017/05/05/526916610/fcc-chief-net-neutrality-rules-treating-internet-as-utility-stifle-growth
  13. Breland, A. (2017, May 08). Week ahead in tech: Senate Republicans push net neutrality bill. Retrieved May 11, 2017, from http://thehill.com/policy/technology/332134-week-ahead-net-neutralitys-road-ahead
  14. Lee, M. (2016, February 25). S.2602 – 114th Congress (2015-2016): Restoring Internet Freedom Act. Retrieved May 11, 2017, from https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/2602