There is currently a debate happening in Washington over net neutrality, but few people seem to understand what net neutrality means and how it affects them.
Simply put, net neutrality means that users are allowed access to all information and content online at the same speeds. Without net neutrality, companies such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon would be able to charge a premium fee to content providers and users to access certain websites at a faster speed.
The belief is that if the companies were allowed to do this they would favor certain sites over the content they provide. Imagine being able to load Comcast’s website fast but having to wait a few minutes to start streaming that Netflix series you’ve been binge watching.
The FCC and White House wish to label Internet providers under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, reclassifying the Internet as a utility such as water, electric or gas. Much like the expectation that when you turn on your faucet water will come out, net neutrality will guarantee that when you want to access online content you won’t have to wait.
In the past, Internet service providers could offer a “fast lane” to websites such as YouTube and Netflix to allow them to move data faster; this effects streaming content currently but without net neutrality, this could affect news websites, email providers and social networking.
Last November, President Obama requested for bright-line rules banning ISPs from blocking legal content, manipulating Internet traffic speeds and imposing paid prioritization. Bright-line rules refer to clear and enforceable standards that all ISPs would need to follow.
Companies that argue against net neutrality would decrease innovation and investment on the Internet, pointing to a filing from Jan. 14, 2015 by National Cable & Telecommunications Association that says, “Title II would threaten to destroy the Internet’s dynamism and reduce broadband investment and innovation.”
President Obama has also discussed having individual towns and cities begin providing Internet access to compete with the private sector. Similar to how FedEx and UPS compete with the United States Postal Service for your business, Obama wants to create a healthy competition between the private and public sector as it relates to Internet access.