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Net Neutrality Seems Poised to Return in Upcoming FCC Vote — Here’s Why It Should

Net Neutrality Seems Poised to Return in Upcoming FCC Vote — Here’s Why It Should

The topic of net neutrality has had a tumultuous past few years, with steps forward canceled out by steps taken back. However, new efforts are being considered to restore the policies that made net neutrality what it was in the first place.

Let’s discuss why net neutrality and its protections are necessary in the modern age.

Net Neutrality: All Internet Traffic is Treated Equally

As a philosophy, net neutrality is based on the principle that—regardless of who is trying to access a website or what website is attempting to share content—the Internet service provider, or ISP, provides the same level of service across the board.

In other words, net neutrality blocks ISPs from prioritizing certain websites that pay them extra to speed up their delivery or from throttling those with conflicting business interests to their own. With net neutrality in place, businesses can’t “invest” in an Internet service provider in exchange for their website loading faster than those belonging to their competitors. If a particular ISP had ties to a streaming service, net neutrality would prevent this provider from slowing down all others or unfairly boosting the one whose success the ISP’s parent company was interested in promoting.

On the other side of the equation, ISPs would also be barred from limiting users based on where they live, who they vote for, how much they make, or their race while ensuring their services are reliable, secure, and affordable.

In 2015, the United States Federal Communications Commission established a rule ensuring net neutrality. In other words, Internet service providers were not allowed to vary traffic speeds based on the websites users visited, barring websites from paying ISPs to deliver their content faster. These rules were repealed barely two years later, but a vote on April 25th of this year will hopefully put these protections back in place.

So, why do we say hopefully? After all, we operate as a business… wouldn’t we find it beneficial to pay our local ISP to incentivize anyone looking for business IT services to spend more time on our website?

There are a few reasons why this isn’t the case.

Net Neutrality’s Protections Prevent a Lot More Than You’d Think

Because it is based on equity across the Internet, net neutrality disallows ISPs from unfairly leveraging their role and position to take advantage of the parties on either side of the Internet connection: the user and the content provider. For our purposes, these parties represent your business’ audience and your business’ website, respectively.

Without net neutrality, an ISP could charge the user and content provider for certain types of content in addition to the service charge that simply using the ISP incurs or slow traffic unless the content provider pays an additional charge. The ISPs have argued that their network resources aren’t used equally without these changes. With a lot of content coming from outside their network, ISPs also claim it is unfair that they must absorb the cost of traffic to this content without themselves benefitting from it.

However, it must be noted that an ISP’s services effectively give users a set amount of resources to use as they wish. The user can use that amount and no more… and if the user doesn’t use all of it, there are no refunds.

It must also be said that many ISPs themselves provide content. While the arguments against net neutrality claim that this would result in discounts for users paying more attention to ISP-tied entertainment, supporters of net neutrality counter this by pointing out that most places in the United States only have one viable choice of ISP serving them. Net neutrality would prevent ISPs from throttling other entertainment providers and help eliminate the formation of more abusive monopolies overall.

Finally, we must address the fact that smaller businesses already have a hard enough time competing with huge corporations. Net neutrality protects these companies from massive competitors simply flooding ISPs with money to prioritize their online presence and box small businesses out of opportunities. 

The Internet is Too Vital to Sacrifice Its Openness

If you believe that net neutrality is essential, we recommend that you visit the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s page detailing the fight in greater depth than we have here. The EFF has also provided instructions to help you comment on the proceeding for yourself—going so far as to provide a boilerplate comment that you could (and we recommend that you do) use.

If you’re ready to place a comment now, visit the FCC’s comment page and specify proceeding “23-230” before leaving your thoughts in the provided field or using the boilerplate provided by the EFF. 

Please do so today, as the vote takes place the day after this was published (April 25th, 2024).

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