Today, Net Neutrality is in line to be jeopardized. Net Neutrality has been a leading hot topic for months but many do not know what this means.
Net Neutrality was taken into effect under the Obama administration February, 26th 2015. It is otherwise known as Title II under the Communications Act of 1934. It not only secures transparency between Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) and the consumer, but ISP’s cannot block content, throttle content (throttle means the intentional slowing of internet speed by ISP’s) and in turn cannot provider faster service for companies who can pay more. ISP’s will potentially bundle internet packages for companies like Television services bundle channels. Depending on the amount you’re willing to pay depends on the quality of your serivce. Currently, small businesses and start-ups have the same advantages for potential online business as their larger counterparts because neither one pays an ISP more for faster internet.
Think about it in these terms, you want to buy a T-shirt from a local store online but their webpage loads incredibly slow. Online at target, a similar shirt is being sold and there is not wait time for the webpage to load– in turn, you’re more likely to buy from target because the waiting will discourage you, the consumer and hurt the small business.
Prior to the introduction of Title II, there was no ‘law’ regarding Net Neutrality. ISP’s were entrusted to govern themselves as it was a common courtesy among ISP’s. Until abuse of this courtesy with negative business deals being shown, there was no need for regulation.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was appointed to this position under President Donald Trump and leads the repeal against Title II. In February of 2015 when Title II was introduced, over 4 million people expressed support by writing letters in favor. Today, a staggering 22 million is expressing their discontent with lawmakers writing letters and taking to the streets in protest. What is even more concerning is that 76% of Americans are in support of Title II with 81% of Democrats and 73% of Republicans in support. In today’s day and age, that’s pretty strong bipartisanship. This proves that this repeal is not being made in the favor of the people. If not the people, then who is in such great support?
Large ISP corporations like Comcast, the cable and internet giant, wield power in Washington and have a strong sway with the members of Congress. In 2015 31 members of congress owned shares in Comcast. To put this into perspective, In 2016, 360 out of the 435 along with 52 senators accepted campaign donations totaling 3.9 million. Following this, in the 2016 cycle Verizon gave a hefty 2.3 million to congressional candidates. AT&T forking over 3.7 million and The National Cable and Telecommunication Association (NCTA) gave 1.7 million to candidates. Not surprisingly, all these corporations are in favor of the repealment of Title II.
Chairman Pai’s plan is that if ISP’s go against the law and gave competitive disputes, the FTC can take disciplinary action. This is discouraging because companies terms of service and policies protect only the company, not the consumer. What stops the company from rewriting its terms of service and implement discriminatory practices? The FTC protects consumers to establish guidelines but cannot narrow its focus on just ISP’s or set tough rules.
Scrapping Net Neutrality takes a hit on free speech. Only the companies with the fat wallets can provide their information online faster than the latter. It discourages small businesses or startups from offering fast lanes that give better streaming speeds. The vote for Net Neutrality is today, where do you stand?