The subject of net neutrality has been discussed for years, and after four months of listening to comments, the Federal Communications Commission will be releasing its new rules about net neutrality at the end of the year, a decision which may or may not change the Internet.
Net neutrality, a term coined by Tim Wu in 2003, is the principle that all content on the Internet is freely distributed and cannot be discriminated against based on user, platform or Internet service providers.
According to University of Indianapolis’s Senior Director of Networks Matt Wilson, there are no laws in place that preserve net neutrality, and those who favor of net neutrality are pushing Congress to change this.
Without net neutrality, cable companies such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable or Internet service providers such as AT&T would be able to control what their customers have access too, according to The New York Times. One way companies could do this is by creating a slow lane and a fast lane, according to PBS Newshour.
Websites in partnership with the companies would be put in the fast lane, while others would be in the slow lane. Being in the slow lane would result in lower quality and slower loading speeds for the websites.
According to Time magazine, one example of this occurred in January between Netflix and Comcast, an issue being investigated by the FCC. CNN reported that Netflix had refused to pay a fee to connect directly to Comcast’s network, and because of this, Comcast placed Netflix into the slow lane.
In a petition filed to the FCC in August, Netflix paid the fee in February because its streaming became so slow customers were unsubscribing from its site.
Netflix, along with other sites such as Twitter and Reddit, had an Internet “Slowdown Day” on Sept. 10 to advocate net neutrality, according to the McClatchy Washington Bureau.
For 24 hours, the sites featured a loading symbol, and Netflix’s homepage read, “If there were Internet slow lanes, you’d still be waiting.” Other advocates of net neutrality include Google, Facebook and Amazon.
Besides the practice of fast and slow lanes, another fear is that ISPs will charge consumers more money for certain sites or deny access to those sites all together, according to CBS News.
Wilson said that without net neutrality, companies such as Comcast could even control what kinds of content their consumers see online.
Wilson said that companies want to protect their business model and help
distribute content, and that is a part of the argument against net neutrality.
“In principle, I’m for it [net neutrality,]” he said. “However, the businesses are providing infrastructure to support the distribution of content, and implementation of infrastructure is very costly. If there are ways to recoup these costs without impeding access to information, then I’m okay with it.”
While net neutrality has been talked about since the early 2000s, the FCC created a comment section on their website in May, encouraging people to voice their opinions about net neutrality.
The section was open until Sept. 15. According to CBS News, the FCC received nearly four million comments, and the new net neutrality rules are to be released at the end of this year.
The FCC’s website hosts the commission document about net neutrality at www.fcc.gov. Websites such as dearfcc.org and www.savetheinternet.com continues to hosts petitions about net neutrality.
While the new rules will not be revealed until the end of the year, Wilson said that content and access to information could be limited or discriminated against depending on what the FCC and ISPs decide. Based on their decision, Internet users may be affected.
“The Internet has always encouraged free and open access to whatever content there might be. So as far as why it’s important, I think it’s important for the free flow of information and the free distribution of information,” he said. “…
According to Wilson many people have stakes in net neutrality.
It [censoring information] certainly goes against the first principles of the United States of America. Making sure we preserve that [the first principles] is certainly most important and why students and faculty and consumers all have a stake in how this turns out. Certainly AT&T and Comcast want to protect their business model. But there are certainly downstream effects that can happen if you limit or inhibit the access to information.”