“Net neutrality (also network neutrality or Internet neutrality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. The term was coined by Columbia University media law professor Tim Wu in 2003 as an extension of the longstanding concept of a common carrier.”
Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_neutrality
It’s easy to become confused pretty quickly in the debate about “net neutrality,” a concept that has been around since the dawn of the Internet. The concept itself is pretty straightforward, and the definition I’ve quoted from Wikipedia above does a pretty good job of breaking it down. The debate that has been raging of late, however, reveals how contentious an idea it really is.
The Wikipedia article actually does a pretty good job of breaking down the concepts, history, and debate, explaining all sides in a balanced way. Essentially, though, it comes down to whether the government or Internet service providers (some would argue the market) should determine the speed at which internet traffic travels.
Regardless of what side you land on the debate, decisions about to be made by the FCC will determine in a very fundamental way how the Internet will work in the United States from now on.
Beginning in 2010, the FCC implemented a series of rules that essentially subjected Internet service to the same rules as telephone networks. The rules were meant to prevent “unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities or services.” In January 2014, the Supreme Court essentially nullified these rules by determining that the FCC had no authority to enforce them since Internet service providers were not classified as “common carriers” under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 (as telephone networks are).
Since then, the FCC has been mulling over what new rules it should impose, and how much freedom Internet service providers should be given to control the speed at which Internet service is provided. The agency has just postponed making determinations until sometime in 2015, and the proposals being considered break down into three general categories:
- Classify Internet service as a common carrier under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, just as telephone service is (a proposal President Obama supports)
- Allow the Internet service providers to have, essentially, free rein over Internet service (proposals Internet service providers support)
- Impose a “hybrid” approach, allowing Internet service providers the option of creating special “fast lanes” of traffic for those who would pay for it (companies like Netflix, Google, and so on)
CTN encourages everyone to read about and weigh in on the issue to the FCC, and anyone is welcome to submit a comment here