Tuesday, May 19, 2015

FCC Introduces Rules Promoting Net Neutrality

2/27/15 - One of the most controversial topics in recent discussion is net neutrality. Net neutrality is the principle by which Internet providers provide equal access to all online materials, without favoring particular websites. The push for net neutrality comes from a common practice among Internet providers by which certain online content has slower speeds than others. This “speed discrimination” leaves users with two options: wait extra time to access certain data, or pay to use “faster lanes.” The FCC has, as of Thursday, passed a set of rules that provide for the government's regulation of Internet speeds. Jim Puzzanghera, in his L.A. Times article, discusses what this means, economically and otherwise.

While the Federal Communications Commission claims that these regulations will not be anywhere near as tough as the provisions in other industries, these net neutrality rules mean that the government will have some semblance of control over the Internet. Conservatives and telecommunications companies fear governmental intrusion in a system that is already working well, and liberals applaud the FCC for promoting free and equal access to all legal online materials.

Broadband, just like water and electricity, has become a commodity, a necessity in the everyday life of an average American. However, like with water and electricity, there may be some sense in the government regulating broadband, since it would give everyone access. Quoting similarities to freedom of speech, supporters of net neutrality feel that it is the best way to give everyone equal ability to acquire information.

Generally, neither side of the argument disagrees that Internet providers should have some sort of checks and balances. It is the extent of these regulations that worry many. The Internet, if treated as a commodity, should be as it is now. People can pay more money for a better product, just as people can pay more money for access to a better Internet connection. The two seem very similar. On the other hand, if treated as a utility, like water or electricity or telephone service, broadband seemingly should be equally available to all potential consumers.

In the past, two attempts by the FCC to introduce net neutrality rules have been blocked by federal judges as illegal in some way. Tom Wheeler, Democratic member of the FCC and architect of this net neutrality plan, seems confident that it will be successful. Wheeler decided to classify Internet as a “utility-like” product, which may or may not help his cause. There are sure to be many attempts to throw out the proposed FCC rules, and so, none are quite sure whether net neutrality will be a lasting phenomenon in our future.

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