What is Net Neutrality and How Does Its Repeal Affect You

What is Net Neutrality and How Does Its Repeal Affect You

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What is net neutrality?

Initially coined by Columbia University media professor Tim Wu in 2003, it is the principle that all internet traffic should be treated as equal, regardless of the source of the traffic. A truly “neutral” ISP doesn’t block or slow down an app, service, platform, or user for any reason, so long as they’re engaged in legal activities. Just as importantly, it doesn’t charge extra money for prioritized traffic to certain websites or applications or offers “fast lane” access to first-party services without extending the same courtesy to its competitors.

Back in the mid-2000s, Comcast was believed to have violated net neutrality principles by throttling of peer-to-peer (P2P) applications such as BitTorrent.  An investigation by the Associated Press revealed that the ISP intentionally slowed down upload speed of specific applications.  Ultimately, the FCC ordered it to stop.  In the 2012-13 timeframe, some cellular providers also seem to violate these net neutrality rules but changed available plans to address the problem.  Sometime in 2015, the FCC reclassified broadband internet services to include it with landline phones, electricity, and utilities as “common carriers,” moving it away from being considered “information services” in the eyes of the law.  The FCC, somehow, did not apply the full weight of the law to cable and wireless carriers, instead merely establishing rules to which ISPs were required to adhere to.

Are you confused yet?  Oh yeah, The Restoring Internet Freedom Act throws many of those rules out the window. It effectively narrows the FCC’s definition of a net neutrality violation to instances of non-disclosure. ISPs are free to slow down or block websites so long as they’re transparent about those practices with subscribers.  What are we to do with all these unclear rules and regulations.

Well, as you have likely heard, Net Neutrality has been repealed.  So at the end of the day, what exactly does this mean for each of us.  Will prices on ISP services go up significantly, will there be throttling of our bandwidth speeds or higher fees for specific applications.  Time will tell.  Congress does have a window to act, but who has a clue what and when they will take action.  There are so many tentacles related to net neutrality, I can’t keep up.

Check out this article from VentureBeat for a summary of the interconnections.  I’m sure there will be many more articles in the news about Net Neutrality in the very near future, so stay tuned.

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