FCC to reach decision at end of 2014
Net Neutrality, a term coined by Tim Wu, a Law professor at Columbia University has taken the front seat in a national debate. Net Neutrality as defined by Wu, is the principle that Internet Service Providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.
According to an article by Robert McMillan on WIRED.com titled “What everyone gets wrong in the debate over Net Neutrality,” ISP’s such as Verizon and Comcast, are attempting to charge extra fees to web companies for faster speeds. As it stands now, Net Neutrality prevents that. But that isn’t stopping the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from trying to put an end to it.
So what is the big deal here? Well according to the American Civil Liberties Union, the absence of Net Neutrality would mean that free speech on the internet is a thing of the past. The theory behind this is that if internet companies cannot afford the fees for their websites to be delivered at fast enough speeds, then people will not be able to access anything they want. Or for that matter, say anything they want on forums and other internet free speech outlets.
As it stands now, big time companies like Google and Netflix deliver their content through what is called “internet fast-lanes.” This means that ISP’s like Comcast allow Google for example, to operate at a faster speed than other websites. Comcast allows Google to do so because of a connection called “peering.” Basically, in exchange for fast traveling data, Google trades traffic with Comcast, thus giving the ISP information in order for it to more quickly transmit popular or related content to consumers.
According to an article on FoxNews.com, President Barack Obama is in support of more strict rules that would prevent ISP’s from charging more for faster speeds. While Obama’s intentions seem sincere, ISP’s would be considered telecommunications companies, which under the current laws for such companies, they are required to pay the FCC through their “Universal Service Fund.” Usually in cases such as this in the past, those types of fees are passed onto the consumers, as said by Commissioner Mike O’Reilly.
One should keep in mind that consumers ultimately paying more is just a theory, therefore one cannot be certain as to what is going to happen with the Net Neutrality debate, which will apparently be resolved by the end of this year when the FCC votes on the new rules backed by Obama.
The ACLU’s stance: the end of Net Neutrality would mean the end of innovation and competition among internet companies.
For more information on Net Neutrality, visit aclu.org, and news sites such as CNN and FoxNews.com.