The term net neutrality faded into obscurity after the 2017 FCC repeal of net neutrality laws. Of all the things that might affect your Internet experience this year, the resurgence of neutrality protections should have a quickly positive impact. The Federal Communications Commission has never completely abandoned the idea of a neutral playing field for all Internet providers and services. Let’s just say they took a long sabbatical from enforcing these ideas during a time of tremendous stress and change in the country.
Your Online Playing Field
2015 seems like a lifetime ago, and in the split-second news cycle of the Internet, it definitely is. In this far away land, net neutrality trailblazers like Gigi Sohn and Jessica Rosenworcel fought for a level playing field for all providers and content creators. The 2015 Open Internet Order may have been repealed, but its ideas were never abandoned to time. President Biden recently appointed both Rosenworcel and Sohn to FCC positions. There, they’ll re-establish the fundamentals of net neutrality again.
Net neutrality is the principle that Internet Service Providers shouldn’t be able to play favorites with your content or positively/negatively impact content for their own personal gain. Let’s take AT&T as an example. AT&T is both a broadband ISP and a content owner. Their HBO Max service is a wildly popular one throughout the world. Who doesn’t love a good movie? As a content provider, AT&T is pretty good. As a broadband provider, it frequently breaks former net neutrality laws by using its power as a provider to prioritize HBO Max and unfairly disadvantage competing streaming services.
Like most principles of its time, net neutrality is about power struggle and conflict of interest. The dual nature of a corporation like AT&T makes it easy for them to assert an unfair amount of power on other content. They control the entryway for content itself. By doing so, they benefit enormously by interfering in other content provider’s business. The last four years, AT&T and many other companies like them have used Internet throttling and drastically unfair pricing to stifle competition.
It’s All About to Change
California is one state that never abandoned the idea of complete and unfettered access to online content. Their SB 822 net neutrality law is a vision of what might happen when the FCC reasserts its authority over unfair broadband practices. While the law is currently being reviewed in the Ninth Circuit, it’s still currently active.
There is more now at stake than ever before in the fight to keep broadband internet providers on the straight and narrow. The consequences for violating net neutrality laws is graver now than ever before. People depend on Internet the way past generations of folks depended on telephone to call the police or fire department. If a provider interferes by throttling Internet or interfering in competition, the results can even be someone’s life. In California, Verizon actually throttled Internet at a life or death moment. In the middle of a wildfire, they throttled Internet at a wildfire command center and could have cost people their lives and homes.
Net neutrality is not a symbolic concept or one that just wants to make a point to people. When an ISP interferes in the free and quick flow of information online, they often cost someone money, time, or even their life. They cost fairly competing businesses millions or even billions of dollars.
The Future of Net Neutrality
With the reappearance of the 2015 Open Internet Order and newly appointed pro-neutrality leaders at the FCC, it’s almost certain that you’ll be hearing more about net neutrality this year. It’s also likely it’ll be re-instated as a federal law and begin to positively impact your Internet experience. The government’s recent push to help more people afford broadband are a sure sign that Uncle Sam wants Americans to receive the best, fairest version of the Internet possible. Net neutrality leads to the purest form of Internet possible.