It’s that time again…the topic of net neutrality has returned to rear its ugly head. Last year, on September 10th, supporters of net neutrality hosted the world’s first “Internet Slow Down Day.” The day was intended to band together those who support the idea that the Internet should be equally accessible by all, not optimized for those who can afford to pay more. This year, on February 26th, the FCC will vote to save or destroy net neutrality. It is more important now than ever to understand what congress is proposing, who supports what side, and what you can do to help save net neutrality.
First, let’s fully understand what net neutrality really means. It is the principle that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally. This means, no matter what site you are on or what action you are performing on the web, the data should stream equally across all networks. The data should not stream more smoothly for platforms that pay more money to have “highways” and more slowly for the smaller networks that can’t afford an added expense to fight off the giants for web space. Currently, the Internet bandwidth controlling entities (who are lobbying against net neutrality) like Internet service providers (ISPs) and wireless carriers can’t slow down a user’s access to a particular site or speed up access to others. Basically, proponents of net neutrality just want access to the Internet to be the same as it has always been, open and equal. Without net neutrality there would be no Facebook or Google, both of which started from grassroots efforts.
The debatable topic of net neutrality has been an active conversation for over ten years. There is a never-ending battle to keep the Internet open and preserved. The best compromise that policy makers have been able to come to (at this point) is to establish a set of “rules of the road” that let everyone know what is acceptable and unacceptable on the Net. This year’s debate is focused around what this year’s rules should be and how to best formulate them in a way where they can stand up to future scrutiny.
The good news is that there is a gleam of hope on the horizon, with Tom Wheeler at the helm of the FCC ship. Wheeler was inspired to fight for more Internet freedom in this year’s rules. This is in large part thanks to everyone who came together last year in an effort to maintain net neutrality (over 4 million public comments, to be exact). Wheeler has not released a copy of his precise rules to be proposed, yet. However, we do know Wheeler’s six basic proposed rules:
- No blocking
- No throttling
- No paid prioritization
- Open Internet conduct standard
- Reasonable network management.