Net Neutrality Day has taken off yet again as activists speak out through online and in-person protests to fight what they view as an attack on internet freedom from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which threatens to strip net neutrality rules put in place under the Obama administration, reports The Hill. But not everyone tweeting about #NetNeutrality is against the proposed changes.
Many Republicans and Trump loyalists see net neutrality as a “scam” designed to give more control to the government and limit commercial opportunity. By contrast, Democrats, joined by tech giants like Facebook and Google, view net neutrality as essential to maintaining equal consumer access to a variety of websites and services, reports The Verge.
What Is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is defined by Battle for the Net as “the principle that Internet providers like Comcast & Verizon should not control what we see and do online.”
This vague definition encompasses many areas of concern for internet activists. One of the biggest issues for those concerned about net neutrality is the potential for internet service providers (ISPs) to practice “paid prioritization.” According to the Inquisitr, “paid prioritization” is a potential business model in which companies that pay ISPs could have faster loading times for their websites than companies that do not pay. This could result in these companies experiencing extremely slow load times for their websites, which may not load at all. Activists argue that this creates a situation in which content made by large, wealthy companies would be prioritized over content from smaller companies that may not be able to afford the fee, thereby limiting their ability to reach consumers.
After a big activist push and pressure from then-President Obama, the FCC created rules that protected net neutrality by preventing internet providers from engaging in paid prioritization as well as “blocking” and “throttling,” all actions that internet activists claim would put too much power in the hands of internet service providers to control what consumers can access on the internet, according to Battle for the Net. The decision, which occurred on February 26, 2015, reclassified internet service providers as “common carriers,” likening them to phone companies or public utilities companies, a move that allowed ISPs to be regulated by the federal government, reports the Inquisitr.
What Are The Proposed Changes?
One proposed change is that the regulation of broadband ISP companies will cease to be handled by the FCC and will instead be transferred to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), according to the Inquisitr. The Hill reports that this move may result in a lower amount of regulation since the FTC only has the authority to act if ISPs violate their terms of service and does not have the power to make preemptive rules like the FCC does. Another stipulation is that internet service providers have the chance to voluntarily add net neutrality principles to their terms of service, which theoretically may create a market-driven incentive for them to follow the rules, instead of a government mandate.
Many internet activists are worried that these changes will empower ISPs to seek out a more purely profit-driven strategy, which may favor the content of large corporations over that of smaller ones, resulting in a possible reduction or alteration of the large and varied internet landscape. However, according to The Hill, these changes may be a boon for consumers as it would allow ISPs greater freedom in offering free data plans. Currently, a few providers, such as Verizon and T-Mobile, offer plans that allow consumers to stream certain content without it counting against their data plans. Relaxing net neutrality laws may allow for a wider application of this practice, which net neutrality activists argue favors content providers that have deals with the ISPs.
#NetNeutrality Sparks Debate On Twitter
Interestingly, the support and opposition for net neutrality is not entirely split along party lines. Many Trump supporters on Twitter are lauding the FCC’s decision as a strike against government tyranny and a win for the free market that may result in lower prices. Others, however, are more skeptical of the move. This is unsurprising considering that many Trump supporters are millennials who may not be as concerned with free-market ideals as their classic conservative or Republican counterparts.
Democrats and leftists seem to be united against the FCC’s move, which they view as increasing corporate control of information.
However, massive support for the Obama-era net neutrality rules by huge tech corporations like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Amazon, and Netflix pose the question in the minds of some Americans of whether net neutrality is truly an issue of corporate control vs. internet freedom or whether there is a more complicated power play at hand.
The Future Of Net Neutrality
According to the Inquisitr, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced on April 25 that he planned to undo the 2015 rules. The FCC voted in accordance with its chairman’s wishes on May 18 in a 2-1 party line vote. The next step was an open comments period which ends July 17. Responses to comments are set to occur on August 16.
Although there is a huge campaign to send comments to the FCC in defense of net neutrality and against the new rules, The Hill reports that this likely won’t be enough to stop the commission from changing its rules on net neutrality.
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