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Checking in on Net Neutrality

Checking in on Net Neutrality

When we write about Net Neutrality, we typically write about how it is designed to keep the telecommunications conglomerates, who make Internet service available to individuals on the Internet, honest when laying out their Internet service sales strategy. One way to put it is that without net neutrality in place, the Big Four (which are currently Comcast, Charter, Verizon, and AT&T) have complete control over the amount of Internet their customers can access.

In 2018, the Federal Communications Commission repealed the Net Neutrality laws that were in place for several years with a vote of 3-to-2. This has allowed the ISPs to control the Internet again. Today, we present you with a brief reminder, and update the situation as we roll into 2019.

Our Internet?
Commercially-available Internet services have been made available for the better part of 30 years. It is available and utilized almost everywhere in the U.S. As broadband began to take off, there was a very noticeable shift in the way that ISPs governed high-speed internet. Today, as most applications require the use of high-speed Internet, it becomes more important than ever for people to have access to affordable high-speed Internet.

For the past seven years, legislators have attempted to pass a law that would secure an open Internet in the future. These attempts have failed miserably. Cases like Verizon Communications, Inc. vs. FCC haven’t helped the cause much, as the attempts to make broadband Internet service a utility were thwarted in the courts. Today, nobody really knows who is going to control the Internet in the days to come. Currently it is in the hands of the ISPs, but that doesn’t seem likely to stay that way. It seems like an issue that is split down party lines, so the controlling factor seemingly depends on what party controls the executive branch of the government. Without legislative intervention, that likely won’t change anytime soon.

What Is Going on with Net Neutrality Now?
Almost immediately after the last shift in 2018, lawsuits were filed and they seem to keep coming. States, advocacy groups, neutrality lobbies, and companies have all started lawsuits against the FCC both for their handling of the situation and for the repeal of net neutrality itself.

To see if the repeal of net neutrality is working to benefit consumers, you simply have to consider the following two points:

  1. Net Neutrality is hindering broadband investment. In 2018, the Big Four spent much less than it did prior to the repeal of the net neutrality laws. It was the first time in three years that investment has been reduced.
  2. It doesn’t make sense for ISPs to throttle Internet traffic. These companies reportedly slowed internet traffic without telling customers as soon as six weeks after the repeal. Websites such as YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon Prime were the most targeted for throttling. Verizon, specifically, was put into hot water after slowing speeds that led to slower EMS response times in sections of California battling record forest fires last year.

Despite the political bickering, there are similar views on some issues. Most governing bodies would like to see fast, open, and unobstructed Internet. There are older FCC mandates that have worked to prohibit ISPs from creating anticompetitive and harmful practices in the past, but whether these mandates would be enforceable with current FCC investment thwarted is unknown.

Individuals roundly support net neutrality laws. They simply don’t like the idea that corporations, whose stated purpose is to make as much profit as possible, hold control over how bandwidth is utilized. Only time will tell who is right.

If you would like to do something about it, go to https://www.battleforthenet.com/ and sign up. Do you believe market forces will keep ISPs honest, and the Internet open? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Tuesday, April 23 2019

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