What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is the idea that everything on the Internet should be treated equally, that no information is prioritized over another, and access to this information should not be slowed, blocked or manipulated by your Internet service provider (ISP).
What’s good about Net Neutrality?
A free and open Internet provides a level playing field for all. It gives a chance for small companies (with smaller wallets) to have the same online presence as the larger ones. This also means that you, as a consumer of the Internet, have full access to every bit of information available on the World Wide Web.
That sounds fair. Why would anyone be against it?
For those who take a stand against Net Neutrality, it’s not the idea of the open Internet that’s a concern (most agree with that concept); rather the opponents are concerned about the government’s plan to add regulations. When something is regulated, taxes and fees are typically applied and when costs are added, the price a customer pays goes up as well.
Another argument against Net Neutrality is the impact certain online content has on the costs associated with building, maintaining and updating a network connection. For example, Netflix consumes large amounts of bandwidth for its streaming services. This strains the infrastructure, causing slower speeds. As more people access this content, additional upgrades to the network are required to continue to offer quality service.
Providing Internet service doesn’t come cheap, as construction and infrastructure alone cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The government rarely provides financial support, so ISPs have to maintain the network on their own. In accordance with Net Neutrality, if content providers, like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon don’t have pay for the service to deliver their content, ISPs will have no choice but to increase the price of Internet service to consumers to cover the additional costs.
What’s currently happening in the news regarding Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality has been around since the Internet started, but only recently has it become a hot topic. New services, like video-streaming services from Netflix or Hulu, have increased Internet bandwidth usage drastically across the country. Because of this, ISPs and content providers have to work together to figure out the best solution to bandwidth problems. This has sparked a political debate on whether the government should get involved and regulate the Internet, similar to the FCC’s telephone regulations.
As a result of this discussion, on February 26, 2015, the FCC voted in favor of Net Neutrality, enacting Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.
What is Title II?
Title II is the same regulatory regime used for wireline telephone service. In a nutshell this means, going forward, broadband Internet will be defined as a common carrier or public utility. This means the FCC will have the power to micromanage all Internet service providers. The FCC will have unilateral control to set rates, impose burdensome rules & regulations, require lengthy reporting and certification requirements, and assume a hands-on control of the internet.
How does “Title II” affect me as an Internet user?
The new law is primarily for preventing future issues, as most Internet providers, including Stanton Telecom, Inc, follow the guidelines suggested by Net Neutrality advocates. However, defining the Internet as a public utility means that the Internet may now be subject to the same taxes and fees as other regulated services. If additional taxes and fees are enacted, Internet providers will have to adjust strategies to adapt. That may work against innovation and new investments, compared to the current free market.
Some worry, too, that if Internet traffic is regulated by the government, they may be able to control what is and isn’t allowed online.
What is Stanton Telecom’s stance on Net Neutrality?
At Stanton Telecom, Inc., we believe in an open Internet. We do not block content from our customers (unless DMCA laws are broken), nor do we choke (slow down) the connection on high-bandwidth content. We also don’t prioritize any one type of Internet traffic over another.
We think it’s a worthy endeavor to want Internet access for everyone in America (in the same way land-line telephone was handled decades ago), but we fear that regulating it as a utility will ultimately raise the price for consumers. Regulation often means unfunded burdens (such as taxes and fees), so ISPs will likely need to pass along some of those added costs to their customers.
• 1934: The Communications Act of 1934 established the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate radio, telegraph, and all sectors of telecommunications environment that operated as a monopoly (AT&T and the Bell operating companies)
• 1996: The Telecommunications Act of 1996 (TA ’96) supported by President Clinton, Vice-President Al Gore, and majority of Congress designed to free up certain parts of the telecommunications market in the post AT&T breakup environment to provide more choices for consumers in a pro-competitive environment.
• TA ’96 recognizes two exclusive categories of services that are subject to significantly different regulatory regimes; Title I “Information Services” which is a hands-off, light handed, limited regulation approach and; Title II “Telecommunications Services” which is a more strenuous, tedious set of regulations and rules. Title II rules are designed to insure common carriers furnished tariffed services to all customers equally upon reasonable request, and to refrain from unjust, unreasonable, and discriminatory practices. Title II includes rate setting regulation, FCC compliance and certification procedures, interconnection agreement oversight, etc. and much more authority and employs ardent FCC oversight practices.
• At the time TA ’96 was enacted, Congress recognized the internet was still developing. The President, Vice-President, and Congress expressed its desire to a limited, light-handed regulatory framework and accordingly took a hands-off approach to foster innovation and enhancements in internet technology.
• In 2002, the FCC classified all forms of broadband internet as “information services.” In particular, the FCC noted broadband internet access service involves the hallmarks of information services—i.e. computer processing, information provisioning, computer activity, and interaction with stored data.
• 2005: The FCC argues before the Supreme Court internet is an “information service” in the Supreme Court vs Brand X court case. In that case, the FCC further argued, “rules that apply to phone companies have let to higher prices and slower broadband growth.”
• The FCC has twice tried to impose net neutrality obligations on internet service providers and both times the Courts vacated the FCC’s regulatory overreach: Comcast vs FCC in 2012 and Verizon vs FCC in 2014. The Court held that both rulings treated broadband providers as common carriers in violation of TA ’96.
• If the FCC were allowed to regulate internet as Title II common carrier, it doesn’t mean net neutrality would stand up in court. Various industries allow for quicker, faster services such as railroads when transporting produce such as apples when delivery time is imperative, U.S. Postal Service with overnight delivery, etc. The key is to insure all levels of service are available to all customers at the same price for same level of service, i.e. non-discriminatory.
What can I do?
Contact your representatives and tell them to stop the FCC from taking full-control of the Internet. You can use this sample letter here.