Most of you know I don’t normally post anything remotely political, but this is too important to miss commenting on. On December 14th, the FCC will vote to reclassify Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as information services, removing many of the regulations that stop internet service providers from controlling what their customers can see online.
DISCLAIMER: The information provided below is from hours of research, and correct to the best of my personal understanding.
Title 2 of the Communications Act of 1934 is a classification of communication services, which the ISPs were placed under back in 2015 as part of the Open Internet Order of 2015. This meant that ISPs were now classified as ‘common carriers’ and therefore subject to regulation under the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
This act also established rules for ISPs regarding net neutrality, prior to that it was voluntary for the ISPs to adhere to the concepts, and there was little regulation of their services.
Net Neutrality, or the Open Internet, is the concept of internet freedom whereby all internet service providers must treat all data delivered to consumers equally. That means they cannot:
Slow down the speed of content delivery
Speed up content delivery for companies/users in return for additional fees
Charge for ‘service packages’ in the way that cable packages do with television
Services like Netflix cannot pay an ISP to give their service an advantage over Amazon Prime Video.
ISPs cannot force people to pay for multiple packages that include different services… Example ‘streaming media’, ‘social media’, ‘images’, etc…
It means that my author website gets the same priority as Twitter
Ajit Pai, chairman of the FCC has called the Open Internet Order of 2015 and the placement of ISPs under Title 2 as “heavy handed” and “all about politics”. It was his proposal to reverse this decision that started the current debate amid claims that the ISPs don’t have the profit margins to withstand regulation. His proposal will place ISPs under Title 1 and prevent the FCC from adopting net neutrality oversight.
Sure enough, ISPs have complained about the reclassification for some time, and many Republican politicians point to a supposed decrease in investment in service development. In particular they highlight reduced spending for the development of broadband infrastructure, which they cite as proof that the current classification of ISPs under Title 2 is damaging investment.
However, many ISPs say that while there was an initial dip in spending they have actually either matched their pre-Title 2 investments, or increased them. The have also seen increases in share prices, which means that their shareholders are still backing them.
Many Democrats and internet companies have come out in opposition to Pai’s proposed changes. Senator Bill Nelson, of the Senate Commerce Committee, even stated that “depriving the FCC of its ongoing, forward-looking oversight of the broadband industry amounts to a dereliction of duty at a time when guaranteeing an open internet is more critical than ever.”
Startups, investors, and even a group of over 40 of the top internet companies have stated that there is no reason to change the rules at this time. Among those companies are the likes of Netflix, Google, and Facebook. In fact these same companies and investors have expressed serious concerns about what might happen without the oversight of the FCC and the current regulations.
ISPs could institute ‘fast lanes’ that offer faster speeds to certain services/sites while slowing down all other sites/services
ISPs could provide preferential access to their own services/sites, up to and including blocking competitor services/sites.
Web hosts or streaming services could be required to pay the ISPs to escape the ‘slow lanes’
Those unable to pay to be in the ‘fast lanes’ could find their sites losing traffic due to slower loading speeds.
Consumers could be asked to pay extra for certain services, or access to certain sites
Having to pay your ISP extra to access Netflix, because your ISP already offers a similar streaming service
Finding that your existing streaming subscriptions went up, because they services are paying the ISPs not to be in the ‘slow lanes’
Paying extra to get access to social media sites/services without long load delays
Finding that your favorite author/musician/sports team website takes ages to load
If the proposed changes from the FCC go ahead, these could be among the possible outcomes. With those in mind, I have decided to back the existing state of play, and informed my Representatives that I want Congress to step in and prevent the proposal from the FCC.
Please do your own research on this, because I’d like you to make an informed decision before you decide to try and influence the FCC vote.
When you have done that research, please visit https://www.battleforthenet.com/ to find out how you can help keep Net Neutrality in place.