Everyone is freaking out about the future of the internet. Is the end of net neutrality near?
Earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal Obama-era net neutrality regulations allowing broadband companies the power to change how we experience the internet. Net neutrality rules prohibited providers from blocking websites or charging extra for premium services, such as video streaming capabilities.
With net neutrality in effect, the entire internet is your oyster. But without it, the internet could theoretically operate like a cable TV package. You get ESPN, but if you want ESPN2 that’ll be an extra $30 per month.
There are arguments for and against net neutrality and there is outrage on both sides. The fact of the matter is, no one is sure what will come from the decision.
Comcast, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the net neutrality decision, is telling everyone to calm down. From Sr. Executive Vice President David Cohen in the company blog:
This is not the end of net neutrality. Despite repeated distortions and biased information, as well as misguided, inaccurate attacks from detractors, our Internet service is not going to change. Comcast customers will continue to enjoy all of the benefits of an open Internet today, tomorrow, and in the future. Period.
Charter, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile & Sprint all echoed the sentiment from Comcast, but consumers are wary about the word of these internet service providers.
What Was It Like Before Net Neutrality?
The repealed set of rules that were enacted under the then democrat FCC board in 2015 prohibited ISPs from blocking any legal content orservice, decreasing speeds and utilizing fast lanes to favor their affiliates. In theory, Amazon could outbid Netflix or vise versa rendering the competitors service useless on a preferred network.
While ISPs have not been always been bound to net neutrality rules, generally, they have been voluntarily followed due to open competition among the major providers.
The fact is, the internet we've had since 2015 has not changed much from its predecessor, and an extreme subscription model coming for this is unlikely.
Arguments for and against Net Neutrality
In summary, the basic arguments for and against net neutrality are as follows:
For Net Neutrality
- Everyone has a right to browse & communicate freely over the internet
- ISPs can start charging extra fees to offer preferential treatment to companies
- The internet won’t be the same
- ISPs can block or slow competitors
- A bundle package model could materialize, meaning it could cost more to access premium services
- An open internet gives an outlet to social activists
- Small businesses & startups rely on the openness of the internet to thrive
Against Net Neutrality
- The government gets more control of a neutral internet
- A neutral internet could disrupt growth and investment
- Net neutrality doesn’t have the intended effect
- A non-neutral internet lends itself to better competition, which could result in a decrease in service costs and greater investment into new services
What’s the Next Step in the Battle for Net Neutrality?
Despite the FCC vote, this was not the end all, be all to Obama-era net neutrality rules. It’s very possible Congress uses a Congressional Review Act to attempt to pass a resolution of disapproval to block the FCC. Net neutrality is not a partisan issue, with many differing opinions across party lines. Lawsuits could also ensue. In the meantime, enjoy the internet, and watch ThrottleNet’s George Rosenthal explain the importance of Net Neutrality on the Allman Report: