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Net Neutrality: The Open Internet’s Demise

Back in 2010, when the FCC issued the Open Internet Order, then FCC commissioner Michael Copps told The New York Times that he wanted to make sure the Internet “doesn’t travel down the same road of special interest consolidation and gate-keeper control that other media and telecommunications industries — radio, television, film and cable—have traveled. What an historic tragedy it would be,” he said, “to let that fate befall the dynamism of the Internet.” (Ashley). The Open Internet Order was created by the FCC, and restricted internet providers from blocking or discriminating against lawful content on the internet.  However, Verizon Communications challenged this order by pointing out a technicality in a previous FCC classification ruling. In 2002, while under chairman Michael K. Powell, the FCC elected to classify cable modems in the same category as cable providers, also known as an “information service.”

The underlying question here is what should the classification of cable modems actually be? To fully try and distinguish this we must first look at what each category entails. As Seth Ashley asks in his online blog post, “Do you think home internet connection is more like a landline telephone service or like a cable television service provider?” (Ashley). The difference between the two goes a long way in exactly just how much reign the FCC has in terms of regulations and guidelines. The major distinction is that a landline telephone allows you to make/receive calls to anyone you want, without any price deferential who is phoned. This is a “Telecommunication Service”. Cable, on the other hand, is provided through various different packages at different prices. You have the basic cable package with a select few of options to choose from, and then you have more expensive options with a lot more channel options. This is referred to an “Information Service”, which does allow the provider editorial control over what type of content it wants to provide.

The recent Verizon vs. FCC court ruling brought fourth this reasoning as a means of justifying the verdict’s ruling in favor of Verizon. The winners and losers of the ruling are clear, with Verizon and other broadband web providers having received their control as originally desired. The losers here, many believe, is the general American public because now these internet providers have the opportunity to slow down or block any website they choose (ex: their ‘On-Demand’ competitor Netflix). To be in favor of Net neutrality is to be in favor of having a level playing field for anyone who has access. Which would make the internet much like a landline phone, in that we would have unrestricted access to what ever website we choose, all at the same speed. Net Neutrality supporters also fear that broadband providers could create tiers of service that allows for internet companies to pay a fee in order for their website/content to receive the highest speed in terms of how quickly its loading speed is. This sudden change would mean each high profile website company, such as Netflix, Amazon, etc. would have high loading speeds, but not for the smaller internet companies who do not have such funds readily available.

On the other side of this coin, the broadband internet providers asks everyone to trust them. Broadband providers such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon have argues that imposing such rules (stated above) on their networks would make it more difficult to manage congestion (Reardon). Their stance of the controversial argument centers around allowing room for more innovation, and for consumers to have more choices in terms of internet providers. These internet providers do all agree that it is unfair to black traffic, but can those who oppose really trust this sentiment? Broadband companies also believe that the free market competition, created as a result of this ruling, will ensure that they do not prevent consumers from accessing any internet connection.

I personally favor Net Neutrality and argue that the FCC should take immediate action to aid this mis-classification of internet service as an “information service”, to a more adequately-fitting “telecommunications service” title. Which would delegate authority to the FCC and force broadband providers to adhere to a restriction-free unbiased internet service for each American citizen.

“The court in its decision acknowledged the FCC’s conclusion that without Net neutrality or Open Internet rules, network operators may abuse their power.” (Reardon). Stating that broadband providers do represent a threat to internet openness, and that they could very well act in ways that inhibit the speed and extent of future broadband deployment. All due to the fact that they now have the underlying option to do so, but will they at some point down the line? That is the real question.

Sources Cited:

Ashley, Seth. “The end of the open Internet: Why You Should Care About Net Neutrality .” The Blue review. N.p., 23 JAN 2014. Web. 30 Jan. 2014. <http://thebluereview.org/net-neutrality/&gt;.

Fung, Brian. “Federal appeals court strikes down net neutrality rules.” the Washington Post. (2014): n. page. Web. 30 Jan. 2014. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/01/14/d-c-circuit-court-strikes-down-net-neutrality-rules/&gt;.

Reardon, Marguerite. “Appeals court strikes down FCC’s Net neutrality rules.” CNET. N.p., 14 JAN 2014. Web. 30 Jan. 2014. <http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57617199-38/appeals-court-strikes-down-fccs-net-neutrality-rules/&gt;.

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