The FCC’s ruling rolling back the Obama administration’s protection of net neutrality principles has made a lot of headlines recently. Most people have heard that the loss of net neutrality protections will either kill the internet or save the internet depending on which media source you believe. What is net neutrality though? Net neutrality at its core is the principle that your ISP (Internet Service Provider) cannot treat content from one website differently from the content of another website. In essence, all websites are treated equally. Prior to the FCC’s recent ruling an ISP could not charge you more or slow your access to one website, for instance one that streams video, as opposed to another. Under the Obama administration your ISP was treated like a public utility and was prevented from blocking, throttling, slowing down or up-charging for faster speeds to certain sites above others. Removal of these protections means that your ISP is now somewhat free to block, throttle, speed up or slow down access to certain sites. For instance at some point in the future you might be offered an Internet package that does not contain access to Netflix or Amazon and if you want access to these sites you will be required to order a more expensive Internet package.
Opponents to the removal of net neutrality protections fear that the large ISP’s will be able to control the websites that you see and access, potentially allowing them to pick and choose the opinions, news, media and people you interact with on the Internet. Opponents fear that with broadband internet becoming a daily necessity of life those without the ability to pay more for access to the Internet will be left without complete access to the entire Internet. The largest fears relate to anti-competitive behavior from companies, media organizations and the like that would work with ISP’s to limit or prevent consumers from accessing the websites of competitors, startups or opinions that are not favorable to those large or powerful entities.
Proponents of the repeal of net neutrality claim that deregulation will allow the ISP’s the ability to offer consumers more options for broadband with more package options. Large ISP’s have claimed that they will not be changing anything nor do they have any plans to throttle or offer “fast lanes” to the Internet. Time will tell what changes to the Internet, if any are coming. Proponents claim that investment in broadband will increase with the repeal of net neutrality protection. Further, they claim that net neutrality did not exist in the United States until 2015 therefore there is no reason to believe that the Internet will be any different than it was prior to 2015.
Almost all of the Eurpoean Union, Great Britain, India, Canada, Mexico, almost all of South America, and Japan have net neutrality protections. With the repeal of net neutrality protections the United States will be joining China and Russia as the largest countries without net neutrality protections. Many industry groups have promised litigation over the repeal of net neutrality. Regardless where you stand on net neutrality litigation will more than likely exist for years to come surrounding the repeal of net neutrality protections.