In 2015, Net Neutrality was the topic on everyone’s minds, although most people (and vocal politicians) struggled to understand exactly what Net Neutrality was.
So let’s talk about this.
CNN Tech offers a pretty decent breakdown of what Net Neutrality is, but in brief, it can be best described as “equal opportunity for Internet speeds.” No unfair fast or slow lanes, and no blocking of any legal content on your phone, computer or tablet. Now I emphasize that last part as Comcast and Netflix have been at odds with one another for years over services delivered with customers caught in the crossfire. Net Neutrality rules, put in place by the FCC in 2015, mean Verizon can’t block Google Wallet on your smartphone like it did in 2011. In short, Net Neutrality insures fair and open access to legal content on the Internet without restriction from Internet Service Providers, or ISP’s, preventing ISP’s like Comcast and Verizon from charging services like Netflix and Facebook a fee to reach Internet users at faster speeds. The argument against Net Neutrality is that ISP’s lose to the growing demands of consumers; so by dropping Net Neutrality and allowing for the market to decide where and when development should happen, ISP’s can better serve the needs of the consumer. The FCC disagreed with the opposing stance, and put Net Neutrality in place.
Now, all this is up for debate. Again.
To understand why, here’s a quick primer on how the FCC works. The commission is led by five commissioners, three seats are typically represented the party of the President in office. So while President Barack Obama was president three of those commissioners were democrats, two were republicans. The democrats were in favor of net neutrality, therefore Net Neutrality passed three to two.
Now with President Donald Trump in charge, Republicans will have three seats in the FFC and the democrats will have two. And it turns out President Trump opposes Net Neutrality. The new Commission will likely reverse these rules finalized in 2015. Without Net Neutrality, ISP’s will be able to “double dip” and charge the user an access fee while also charging Netflix a fee to be in the high speed lane. This is why critics think no Net Neutrality is not in the best interests of the consumer.
The Republican position is that all of this infrastructure is built by ISP’s like Verizon and Comcast. If you force Net Neutrality on them, they cannot benefit from their investment in infrastructure which could slow down future development. Republicans believe the market should drive the demand. So what would happen, for instance, if ISP’s began charging Netflix hefty fees? Consumers would probably see Netflix raise their fees, compelling users to stop using it. This is the Republicans’ approach: Let the marketplace decide who the winners and losers will be, and let’s not get the government involved.
Democrats, on the other hand, feel that all people should have access to everything and the Internet should be egalitarian, void of different speed tiers.
As you would expect, online services like Google, Netflix, Amazon, and Facebook reliant on bandwidth are in support of this.
Net Neutrality remains a highly contentious issue, and will probably continue to be debated over much further. Vince Surf, considered one of the fathers of the Internet, wants Net Neutrality because he believes access to digital content should be egalitarian. Net Neutrality serves a purpose of access for people in poor neighborhoods, accessing developing countries. There is also the viewpoint that you should not allow corporations to benefit unnecessarily from the Internet infrastructure. The Internet should just be available. I’m not convinced it is just a Democrat versus Republican issue because Net Neutrality doesn’t break down that way directly.
I think the debate we are going to get into is going to be an interesting one, for certain, that transcends technology and really gets into values.
A research physicist who has become an entrepreneur and educational leader, and an expert on competency-based education, critical thinking in the classroom, curriculum development, and education management, Dr. Richard Shurtz is the president and chief executive officer of Stratfdord University. He has published over 30 technical publications, holds 15 patents, and is host of the weekly radio show, Tech Talk. A noted expert on competency-based education, Dr. Shurtz has conducted numerous workshops and seminars for educators in Jamaica, Egypt, India, and China, and has established academic partnerships in China, India, Sri Lanka, Kurdistan, Malaysia, and Canada.