In late February the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made use of their Title II authority in order to enforce open Internet regulations. All Internet traffic will be treated equally, establishing net neutrality.
Net neutrality is the principle that service providers will not discriminate against certain content because of its source. This means that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are not able to favor, block, or throttle the speeds of any content.
Prior to the FCC’s ruling, ISPs had the ability to block or manipulate the speed of service for certain websites, whether making it faster or slower.
ISPs could also block the service for a website completely. In 2014, Verizon and Comcast throttled the speeds of Netflix’s video stream, slowing it down significantly. Netflix was forced to pay the companies to improve their speeds.
Many fear that ISPs could do the same to small businesses and halt any attempts they make to reach consumers and advertise their product. For a company with capital equivalent to Netflix, these additional costs might not be a big deal, but to small businesses this could be disastrous.
The issue was that there was no legislation prohibiting these practices. ISPs were basically free to do as they wished.
Senior Marcelo Gheiler, a member of the school’s chapter of JSA has spoken numerous times and is very passionate about this pressing issue.
“Basically the ruling prevents ISPs from discriminating against the types and origin of data,” Gheiler said.
The FCC’s ruling eliminates these practices for the time being, and most have hailed it as a victory for free speech and small businesses.
“I honestly believe that any legislation against an open internet harms not only small businesses, but larger ones as well as the people. The only people that would benefit would be the ISPs who are practically holding these businesses at gun-point” Gheiler said.
However this victory may be short-lived. Despite bipartisan efforts to find a middle ground on this issue, Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn has introduced a bill that would effectively reverse the strides made by the FCC.
This legislation would eliminate the FCC’s ability to prevent the ISPs from either slowing down or speeding up service and would also deny the FCC oversight of these ISPs under the utility-style regulations. The bill currently has 31 co-sponsors and is likely to face heavy opposition when it reaches the house floor.
It is clear that this debate is far from over. With legislators seeking to advance partisan interests, it is unclear who the benefactors of the final net neutrality ruling will be: Republicans or Democrats.