Net Neutrality is back, and ISPs seem not to know how to feel about it - The UpStream

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Net Neutrality is back, and ISPs seem not to know how to feel about it

posted Sunday Apr 28, 2024 by Scott Ertz

Over the past 2 decades, the topic of Net Neutrality has come up a number of times. In the early 2000s, the US had a time-limited set of rules, known publicly as Net Neutrality. When those expired, early in the existence of PLUGHITZ Live, a long-running debate was reignited: should the internet be regulated and, if so, by whom? The FTC has claimed power, but that was short-lived. The FCC has claimed power, but that has been struck down twice. Now, the FCC has tried once again to claim authority over the Internet, and the chaos that brings has already begun.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said,

Consumers have made clear to us they do not want their broadband provider cutting sweetheart deals, with fast lanes for some services and slow lanes for others. They do not want their providers engaging in blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. And if they have problems, they expect the nation's expert authority on communications to be able to respond. Because we put national net neutrality rules back on the books, we fix that today.

What is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) must treat all online traffic equally. In other words, they shouldn't discriminate based on content, applications, or websites. Imagine the Internet as a highway: net neutrality ensures that every car (data packet) travels at the same speed, regardless of its destination. This fundamental idea promotes an open and democratic digital landscape.

Why does net neutrality matter?

Consider this: without it, ISPs could throttle or block access to certain websites or services. Imagine your favorite streaming platform buffering endlessly while a competitor's service runs smoothly. Net neutrality prevents such discrimination. It allows startups, small businesses, and individuals to compete on a level playing field with established giants. Whether you're streaming cat videos or researching quantum physics, net neutrality ensures equal access for all.

As the structure and ownership of the ISPs change, the importance of an open internet becomes more apparent. For example, Comcast is one of the largest ISPs in the country. Comcast owns Universal, which owns the Peacock streaming service. In theory, Comcast could throttle Netflix and Hulu and prioritize Peacock, making their own service appear to be a better streaming option for their subscribers.

The Net Neutrality 3.0 challenges

As with every attempt to codify the concept of Net Neutrality, there are a number of different positions. Obviously, there are people who believe that a codified Net Neutrality is a positive, no matter how it's accomplished. There are others who believe that the result is a positive, but the way it is accomplished is just as important. Then there are those who believe that codifying Net Neutrality is either unnecessary or inappropriate.

Most people seem to fall into the first and second camps - Net Neutrality is a positive for the internet and for the world as a whole. However, the fight over how it should happen continues to be a challenge. The FCC, which has been involved in several attempts to codify Net Neutrality, has dubious claims to the authority to implement it. Some say that, since no power has been delegated to them by the Congress, they have no authority to regulate internet access. On the other hand, the Supreme Court has rule that internet access falls under the Communications Act, meaning that the FCC does have authority.

On the other hand, you have those who believe that there is no need for Net Neutrality rules. They have continually claimed that there is no need for regulation because no service providers have ever done this in the history of the internet in America. Among the contrarians is the trade group USTelecom. Their CEO Jonathan Spalter said in a statement,

Our nation has a stark choice: Do we move forward together and connect everyone or dial it all back? Just two and a half short years ago we stood together for universal connectivity. Title II does nothing to advance that shared objective. In fact, it undermines it. And for what? This is a nonissue for broadband consumers, who have enjoyed an open internet for decades. Rather than pushing this harmful regulatory land grab, policymakers should keep their eyes on the real-world prize of building opportunity for everyone in a hyperconnected world.

The problem with this statement is that it conflicts with the usual argument. It's difficult to argue that the rules are not needed because this has been the business model for decades while also arguing that implementing the Net Neutrality rules would be a major burden. It's an argument that makes it difficult to believe them when they aren't able to be consistent in their thought process. But, consistency has never been a requirement for success, so we'll see where challenges to the FCC's new rules leads.


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