What is Net Neutrality – Wall Street

Gathering And Sharing Information On The Internet Globally

The internet has fast evolved to represent a new extension of our connected world. Today, we are ever more closely connected internationally. Such interconnectedness now enables individuals to bring a unique beauty that makes the world more interesting through the gathering and sharing of information.

Much more than just a communication system, the internet makes it possible to download or watch movies, shop, listen to podcasts, transact, learn, etc. Our modern world is indeed inextricably connected. Net neutrality aims to make sure that it remains that way, by ensuring that the internet continues to provide a level playing field for consumers and content providers.

What Exactly is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality is a principle which advocates that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) treat all data delivered to consumers equally. The idea aims to ensure that customers are given access to all legal content and applications on equal basis, without giving an unfair advantage to some sources or blocking others.

The principle stops broadband providers from deliberately blocking content or deciding to boost or slow down traffic for specific apps and sites. Net neutrality also prevents ISPs from prioritizing their own content – or those of a partner – or otherwise hamper others’ ability to reach customers.

The net neutrality rule was approved in 2015 during Barack Obama’s presidency. The law states that “The FCC’s Open Internet rules protect and maintain open, uninhibited access to legal online content without broadband internet access providers being allowed to block, impair, or establish fast/slow lanes to lawful content.”

This definition suggests net neutrality was conceived to ensure the freedom of internet users to share information, start new businesses, and engage in discussions online. With net neutrality, all internet content – video streaming, audio streaming, etc. – will be treated equally by broadband providers. Also, startups and business will have unrestricted access to broadband networks.

The Rollback

But it wasn’t to be. In a move which left internet users scratching their heads and asking why, the Ajit Pai-led Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to reverse net neutrality rules in December 2017. The decision, it was claimed, was to “deregulate the industry,” according to a CIO article.

Abolishing the rule gives internet free rein to offer service at their own discretion. However, ISPs are required to reveal their policies concerning performance, commercial terms, as well as network management practices. This means that while they have the freedom to throttle connections, block websites, or charge different prices to different sites, they will have to own up to doing so.

Customers Concerns

As you might have surmised, the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality was condemned in various quarters, with consumers clamoring to have it restored. According to a New York Times piece, customers resist the abolishment of the rule for several reasons. First, they fear that with the repeal, ISPs would start “selling the internet in bundles,” and they would be required to pay to access social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Second, with internet providers having the leeway to do as they want, more influential organizations and households would monopolize the “fast lane” through paid privatization, which allows service providers to create a fast lane for firms and individuals willing to pay more, leaving everyone else to make do with the “slow lane.”

Paid privatization, in particular, would have severe consequences for small businesses and individuals. For e-commerce startups, the worry is that their sites and services wouldn’t be as swift. On their part, freelancers and other remote workers risk higher internet costs.

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