The concept of “net neutrality” is coming under fire as the FCC under the Trump administration appears set against it, going so far as to scrap several investigations into potential offenders.
Ajit Pai is Donald Trump’s new chairman for the Federal Communications Commission, and Pai has been an outspoken critic of net neutrality for years. Fortune reports Pai claimed in 2015 the net neutrality rules passed under the Obama administration would result in “higher broadband prices, slower speeds, less broadband deployment, less innovation, and fewer options for American consumers.”
So what is net neutrality? The concept, according to Google, is “the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.” It also prohibits the slowing of consumer access to various websites.
For instance, under the net neutrality rules, an internet provider like Comcast is not allowed to favor the streaming service Hulu over Netflix. Internet providers are not allowed to favor one site over another, even if that site is their own. The purpose of these rules is to provide a free and open internet without having to worry about someone paying to shift data access away from an equitable standing.
Ajit Pai claims his goal is to create an open and fair playing field for everyone but opposes rules that enable that exact situation. The investigations that Pai recently had the FCC suspend regarded data providers who were enabling customers using specific apps and programs to be exempt from the data usage (and resultant fees). This could potentially violate the net neutrality rules by providing better access to specific programs. If something does not cost resources (money, data) and another thing does, all else being equal, most consumers will choose the cheaper option.
Net neutrality rules were put in place to protect Americans against the near-monopolies many internet providers have in areas. There is often little recourse in choosing high-speed internet providers in an area, with often only one choice being effective. When this occurs, that company can negotiate deals with websites and online services (like Netflix and Hulu) to improve or limit the flow of data through the providers’ infrastructure.
The Zero Rating system allows companies to get around some of the net neutrality rules by not charging for certain data usage. According to Forbes, “With demand for higher quality of videos increasing, the impact will be directly visible on data usage and data charges. With some streaming services not being counted in the data usage caps, the playing field is no longer level, impacting competition in this segment negatively.”
This means a streaming service which gets a Zero Rating from Comcast would not add to the data usage plan, giving them an advantage over a company whose data usage is charged to whatever plan the consumer has. If company A is free and company B uses your data (money), most people choose A.
Net neutrality is key to preventing the exploitation of monopolistic states where one internet provider can basically set the rules for how data is used.
Ajit Pai intends to do away with net neutrality and the protections it provides Americans against large companies. Pai is a former Verizon lobbyist, and one of the companies being investigated for the net neutrality rules violations was Verizon.
“There is no problem that needs to be fixed,” claims Democratic Senator Edward Markey reports Fortune. “Net neutrality rules ensure those with the best ideas, not simply the best-funded ideas, have the opportunity to share their content with the world.”
So what are your thoughts about the potential demise of net neutrality? Tell us what you think in the comments section below!
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