What is net neutrality?
The concept that all data on the Internet should be treated equally by businesses, such as Internet service providers and governments, regardless of content, user, platform, application or ‘apparatus. Network neutrality requires that all Internet service providers (ISPs) provide the same level of data access and speed to all traffic, and that traffic to a service or website cannot be blocked or degraded. ISPs should also not enter into special agreements with services or websites, where the companies that provide them have improved network access or speed.
On October 1, 2019, the D.C. Court of Appeal repealed most of the Net Neutrality provisions in a victory for the FCC.
Net neutrality explained
The term “network neutrality” was introduced in 2002. The concept was launched in response to efforts by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a US regulator, to compel broadband providers to share their infrastructure with competing companies. The Supreme Court overturned the FCC rules in 2005. The regulatory sticking point was whether broadband providers were considered information services, allowing users to publish and store information on the Internet or telecommunications services. In 2020, under the Obama administration, net neutrality rules were approved. These rules, in part, prohibited ISPs such as AT&T and Comcast from deliberately speeding up or slowing traffic to or from specific websites based on demand or company preferences.
Repealed net neutrality
On November 21, 2020, Ajit Pai, the FCC president appointed by President Trump, unveiled a plan to reverse the rules set out by the previous administration. This plan came into effect on June 11, 2020.
On October 1, 2019, the Washington Court of Appeal upheld the FCC’s plan to repeal most of the net neutrality provisions, but struck down a provision that would prevent states from implementing their own rules. Internet open.
In a statement issued by the FCC, Commissioner Jain said: “Today’s decision is a victory for consumers, the deployment of broadband and free and open Internet. The court upheld the decision to the FCC to repeal the 1930s utility style Internet regulations imposed by the previous administration. The court also upheld our strong transparency rule so that consumers can be fully informed about their options online … “
Arguments for and against
Supporters of network neutrality suggest that by not allowing ISPs to determine the speed at which consumers can access specific websites or services, small businesses will be more likely to enter the market and create new services. This is because small businesses may not be able to pay for “fast track” access, while larger, more established businesses may. For example, several well-established social networking websites were created without a lot of seed capital. If they had been forced to pay extra to be accessible at the same speed as the competition, they might never have succeeded. Advocates view net neutrality as a cornerstone of the open Internet and suggest that it be mandated by law in the United States to prevent broadband providers from discriminating against data as a competitive tactic. Supporters of net neutrality include human rights organizations, consumer rights advocates and software publishers, who believe that the open internet is essential for the democratic exchange of ideas and the freedom of expression, fair trade competition and technological innovation. They argue that cable operators should be classified as “public carriers”, such as utility companies or public transportation providers, who are prohibited by law from discriminating among their users. They advocate the principle of a “mute pipe”, arguing that intelligence should only be located at the ends of a network, and the network (“pipe”) itself should remain neutral (“mute”). Proponents of net neutrality see municipal broadband as a possible solution.
Critics of network neutrality suggest that by forcing ISPs to treat all traffic equally, the government will ultimately discourage investment in new infrastructure and also deter ISPs from innovating. The initial costs associated with laying fiber optic cables, for example, can be very costly, and critics argue that not charging more for this level of access will make the investment more difficult to repay. Opponents of the open internet include conservative think tanks, hardware manufacturers, and major telecommunications providers. Providers argue that they must be allowed to charge tiered prices for access in order to remain competitive and generate the funds necessary to continue the innovation and expansion of broadband networks, as well as to recover costs already invested in broadband.