Net Neutrality and You
A hot button issue as 2017 came to a close was the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to end Net Neutrality in a 3:2 vote on Dec. 14. The outrage leading up to the vote was obvious with people rallying together to voice their dissatisfaction with protests and petitions. Now the questions remains as to how this decision is going to affect the way we use the Internet and what we can expect in 2018.
Net neutrality, as explained by USA Today, is the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) should give consumers access to all legal content and applications on an equal basis without favoring some sources or blocking others. It also prohibits ISPs from charging content providers for speedier delivery of their content on “fast lanes” and deliberately slowing the content from content providers that may compete with ISPs.
Under the protections of net neutrality, which have only been in effect since 2015, Internet users have open, equal access to what the web has to offer. For example, Verizon could not show favoritism to Yahoo and AOL, which it owns, by blocking users from accessing Google or forcing them to pay a fee to connect its customers. Now that the Internet has been deregulated, such tactics would be legal so long as Verizon makes their customers aware.
The fear for those that use the Internet personally (read: everyone) is that the deregulation of net neutrality will lead to a surge in prices to use websites that have become commonplace. Such distress is not unwarranted as many look to how countries without the protection of net neutrality function, such as Portugal.
The Portuguese Internet system found itself in the spotlight when Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Fremont) brought attention to it in a tweet that quickly went viral on Oct. 26. The Twitter post attached a picture of Portuguese Telecommunications Company, mobile Internet service options.
On top of a basic monthly rate, subscribers to MEO could purchase add-ons for additional services, each averaging out to about $6 for 10GB of data. For each additional service, users can access apps that fall under that particular category. With “messaging” users can access instant messaging apps, Apple’s FaceTime and Skype; “social” allows for the use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and so on; the “Video” category covers YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and so forth; “music” permits the use of Spotify, Pandora, and things of the like; the last category is “email and cloud” (Gmail, Apple’s iCloud, etc.).
Seeing such a different (and costly) alternative has many wondering what can be done to overturn the FCC’s decision before anyone see any noticeable differences.
The battle for net neutrality has become a legal matter. In Congress, Sen. Ed Markey (D- Mass.) has already announced plans to challenge the FCC’s decision to deregulate Internet protections via the Congressional Review Act.
To effectively overturn the decision, the vote would require a majority in both the House and the Senate. If successful, net neutrality protections will be restored. But, that will be easier said than done since a Republican majority currently rules both the House and the Senate. New York’s Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman (Dem.), will also be filing a multistate lawsuit against the FCC.
Yet if a bill is passed supporting the end of Internet protections the damage can be long lasting. To undo legislation would be far more difficult and time consuming, requiring Congress to vote something into law.
With each of these acts to reinstate former Obama-era protections being extremely new, any major change is still to come. No major modifications to the Internet, as we know it shall be seen anytime soon but we must remain vigilant as the year continues.