Should the government restore net neutrality?
President Biden’s recent plan to bring back net neutrality has reignited the debate over whether the government should restore net neutrality regulations.
Rise of the Issue
Network Neutrality calls for all data and internet traffic to be treated equally by Internet Service Providers (ISP). Under this provision, ISPs cannot discriminate against one website in favor of the other, whatever affiliations those websites might have with them. In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) implemented net neutrality regulations, which aim at ensuring that all Internet traffic would be treated equally. Only two years after implementing these regulations, the FCC removed its provisions of net neutrality, allowing ISPs to charge websites and customers premiums for the use of the internet’s fast lanes and filtering online content. There have been several attempts made in Congress to restore net neutrality, with the most recent push coming from President Biden’s administration.
Supporters say that net neutrality regulations would ensure a free and open Internet and would protect public interests. Opponents argue that the government’s interference in ISPs’ practices would only bring additional costs and administrative burdens, penalizing the consumer.
1990s - 2000s
The Internet Becomes More Common in Households
As the public got access to the Internet, U.S. politicians started to express concerns over the necessity to regulate and protect it.
The Term Net Neutrality is Introduced
Media law professor Tim Wu coins the phrase “net neutrality” in a paper addressing regulatory frameworks for Internet traffic.
2008 - 2010
The FCC Attempts to Regulate Network Management Strategies
The FCC issued an order to prohibit the cable company Comcast from interfering with their users' networking applications but was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals arguing that the FCC lacked authority to regulate ISPs.
Net Neutrality Roles are Adopted
Under the Obama administration, the FCC drafted more comprehensive net neutrality laws preventing Internet Service Providers from prioritizing, slowing, or blocking access to certain websites.
2017 - 2018
The FCC Eliminates Net Neutrality Protections
After a reshuffle under the Trump Administration, the FCC reverses the net neutrality laws imposed in 2015 and renounces its authority over ISPs.
The Net Neutrality and Broadband Justice Act Introduced in House
The bill that would give the FCC appropriate authority to reestablish net neutrality protections is introduced in the House.
Internet Service Provider Practices
Many point out that ISPs would be able to intentionally slow the access to particular websites and create internet ‘fast lanes’ for others to earn more revenue from these sites or their customers. Others say that such acts would not be attempted because too much customer trust would be lost.
Some argue that repealing net neutrality rules would allow for more intense commercialization of websites and internet traffic, which would drive many small businesses and start-ups out of business due to operational costs. Others argue that the commercialization of broadband and the internet would lead to an improvement in services overall.
Supporters and opponents have divergent views on the effect of net neutrality regulations on Internet openness and Internet freedom.
Supporters argue that the Internet should be regulated by the government to protect public interests while opponents say that the government has no authority to interfere with ISPs’ practices.
Preserves free speech on the Internet.
Net Neutrality laws would preserve free speech on the Internet by ensuring that all internet traffic is treated equally, meaning that there would be no discrimination over the content or data.
It allows for continued access to content without unnecessary payments.
Net Neutrality would ensure that consumers or websites would not have to pay extra amounts of money for faster internet speeds or access to content locked behind paywalls.
ISPs’ monopolies would be prevented.
By preventing providers like Verizon and AT&T from dominating the market, net neutrality regulations would push back against corporate control.
Net neutrality rules would create an environment for small businesses to flourish and grow.
Government’s legislation would level the playing field, allowing small companies and start-ups to not be daunted by the high costs of business.
Net neutrality laws would guarantee Internet openness and transparency.
The legislation would ensure that all Internet traffic would be treated equally, promoting open access and transparency of Internet content.
Net neutrality regulations would be unnecessary.
Some argue that the Internet developed successfully without net neutrality. The government’s legislation would only hinder its development.
Regulation would create more bureaucratic burdens on ISPs.
Net neutrality regulation would impose a significant and often unnecessary strain on the running and operating of broadband services.
The legislation would discourage investment in Internet services.
A sector with high amounts of regulation is not preferential to investors, and broadband infrastructures would not be able to develop unless they receive investment.
It increases access to illicit services.
Regulation protecting the equality of all services on the internet would also imply that access to illicit services on the Internet would become easier.
Net neutrality rules would penalize the consumer.
Some argue that the FCC’s regulations would open the door to new fees and taxes on broadband which would translate into higher prices and hidden fees for consumers.