More Information Monday: Net Neutrality

More Information Monday: Net Neutrality

This is one of those concepts that affects all of us (you wouldn’t be reading this if it weren’t for the internet) but a lot of people don’t understand.  So we are going to SIMPLIFY it as best we can!

 

To start – let’s clarify how the internet works, so that when we explain (inter)net neutrality we are all on the same (web) page.

Before we had the internet – we all used the post office, so we are going to go with that analogy.  

  • How you’re identified on the internet is called an IP address (short for Internet Protocol Address) = Your home address
  • Your router = the mailbox at your house
  • The other computer who is sending you something has its own IP address = Return address on an envelope
  • The data/information/video/etc. that goes between the two = letter in the the envelope you’re sending.
  • Internet Service Provider, ISP for short (i.e. Verizon, Comcast, etc) = post office

So you can think of it this way:  To: Your computer  From: Netflix on the address label on the front of the envelope, inside the envelope is what you’re being sent which is the newest season of Orange is the New Black which is mailed to your router via your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

(Source: 5)

Now that we have that basic information down – let’s talk about the big issue of the week: net neutrality.  What is it?

Net Neutrality means the Internet Service providers (Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner, etc) should treat all legal web content equally and fairly.  It’s also known as Open Internet.  ISPs should not block, slow down or unfairly discriminate against any website or online services.  To use the analogy above – the post office (the ISPs) shouldn’t be allowed to slow down the mail, play favorites based on what’s inside the envelope, or where it’s being mailed to or delivered from.  

To you, it means that you should be able to listen to a song on YouTube, binge watch your favorite shows on Netflix, or download all the cat videos you want without the websites being slowed down or having to pay extra to be prioritized.

By eliminating net neutrality, websites that use more bandwidth (like those that provide video, audio, and other larger files) would be charged more money by ISP providers.  One way this could happen is that ISPs would turn to websites and charge them extra to give users faster access.  No one is really sure what could specifically happen without net neutrality.  

(source 1, 2 and 7)

It kind of makes sense that people who use more should pay more.  So why is this an issue?

Right now, if you look at your internet provider website (go ahead and look, we can wait) – there are tiers of packages available based on the speed of your internet (measured in Megabits per second – Mbps).   Simply, the faster internet costs more money – for example, the 25 mbps is $45/month and the 100 Mbps is $90/month.  Basically, regardless of what speed you pick, you can still access anything online and download what you want, it’s just how fast it will load on your screen.  

Without net neutrality, ISP could ALSO charge the websites who use a lot of bandwidth a premium rate. It could also change how you are charged for internet.  You could get charged based on the amount of data that you download- think like the data plan on your phone, or even going old school when you paid for minutes using AOL dialup!

(Source 2, 9 and 10)

So why is this an issue right now?  

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the governmental organization that regulates all telecommunications – including the internet.  As of Thursday May 18, 2017, the FCC voted to to review the rules of net neutrality with the hopes of loosening the regulations on the telecom/ISP industry.  There is a new Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, who feels the current regulations are too restrictive and the internet shouldn’t be treated as public utility.  The FCC will be open to public comments on this for the next 90 days (Spoiler alert: you will see how to do this on Take Action Thursday!)  

(Source 6)

Haven’t I have heard people talking about net neutrality before?

Yes you have!  In 2014, the FCC said they were going to offer a fast and slow lane option on the internet (which if you’re following along is NOT net neutrality) and gave the public a chance to comment on this concept.  In response – they got 3.7 MILLION comments from people. In the analysis of the first 800,000 comments, 99% of the commenters wanted open internet.  For reference, the population of Los Angeles is about 3.7 million people.  Therefore, net neutrality was maintained.  

Then in 2015, the FCC voted to classify wireless and broadband service as Title II carriers meaning the internet is a service that aids the public and is overseen by a governmental body – same as they oversee the telephone (like that rotary phone your grandmother had).  This is also when the rules about ISP not being able to slow down, block or give special treatment were put in place.

In 2016, the ISPs went to the courts asking them to block these regulations – the federal appellate court denied their request.  (Simple Source Note: There are 13 appellate courts. They are the middle child of the court system.  Lower courts can appeal to them and then if one wants to appeal the decision of the appellate court, it could be heard by the Supreme Court)

(Source 2, 7, 8, 11 and 12)

OK – let’s get down to the one question that matters most – how does this affect me?

There are a few ways that net neutrality could affect your life:

  1. Cost of internet – as mentioned above – what you are charged by large streaming devices could change as well as how you are charged for the internet.
  2. Freedom of speech – if an ISP is allowed to affect the traffic going to and from the websites, then there is not equal access to the information.  Because ISP are the pipes that carry speech of all types, interference and modifying how that information is received will restrict or inhibit how people access information.  
  3. The Open Nature of the Internet – you can go to any site at any time.  Without Net Neutrality, that could change.  Your ISP would dictate what you have better access to and what would take longer to access – for example, you might be able to download your favorite Justin Bieber song without a problem from Spotify, but it would take forever to watch YouTube videos of people falling down.
  4. Freedom of doing business – without net neutrality newer or smaller businesses won’t be able to compete with the larger, more established companies who can afford to pay the premiums to have their content streamed.
  5. Education and Medical institutions could face cost issues or it may have an impact on large files they download and/or share for instruction, research or diagnosis.

(Source 3, 4, 8, 9 and 14)

Who is for this?

Right now, the current members of the FCC are looking to change the rules of Net Neutrality and obviously the Internet Service Providers because if these rules are changed, they stand to make a lot of money.  To go back to the original analogy, this would be like if the Post Office (the ISP) charges BOTH the person mailing the letter AND the person who receives it in their mailbox.

Companies like Google, Facebook and Netflix (who were originally quiet on this issue) have now come out against the FCCs plans to change the net neutrality rules – yet these are the very powerhouses that could afford to pay for the premium access and eliminate competition.  

(Source 4, 6 and 13)

So basically this is an issue that could affect everyone who uses the internet?
Yes.  Everyone who uses the internet whether for communication, entertainment, business, medical, educational, etc. could be affected by this decision.  In addition, the future of the internet could be affected in ways people can’t even imagine right now.

Tomorrow, we look at the 2 sides of this issue on Two-Sided Tuesday!

Sources:

1: “Net Neutrality: Should Congress pass legislation mandating net neutrality?” Issues & Controversies, Infobase Learning, 1 Nov. 2010, http://0icof.infobaselearning.com.library.brookdalecc.edu/recordurl.aspx?ID=1873. Accessed 17 May 2017.

2: “Net Neutrality.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2016. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/POPAEC782084913/OVIC?u=brookdalecc&xid=f9f33e30. Accessed 17 May 2017.

3: Cook, Vickie S. “Net Neutrality: What Is It and Why Should Educators Care?.” Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, vol. 80, no. 4, Summer2014, pp. 46-49. EBSCOhost, 0_search.ebscohost.com.library.brookdalecc.edu:80/ login.aspx direct=true&db=aph&AN=96688865&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

4:Fung, Brian. “Internet Firms Fight Net Neutrality on Free-Speech Grounds.” Washington Post, 05 Oct, 2015, pp. A.13, SIRS Issues Researcher, https://sks.sirs.com.

5:How Does the Internet Work? Stanford University, web.stanford.edu/class/msande91si/www-spr04/readings/week1/InternetWhitepaper.htm. Accessed 20 May 2017.

6: Selyukh, Alina. “FCC Votes To Begin Rollback Of Net Neutrality Regulations.” NPR.org, 18 May 2017, www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/05/18/528941897/fcc-votes-to-begin-rollback-of-net-neutrality-regulations. Accessed 20 May 2017.

7: Fung, Brian. “Net neutrality takes effect today. Here’s how it affects you.” The Washington Post, 12 June 2015, www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2015/06/12/net-neutrality-takes-effect-today-heres-how-it-affects-you/?utm_term=.7f8e4ae7bc26. Accessed 20 May 2017.

8:Shontell, Alyson. “EXPLAINED: ‘Net Neutrality’ For Dummies, How It Affects You, And Why It Might Cost You More.” Business Insider, 15 Jan. 2015, www.businessinsider.com/net-neutralityfor-dummies-and-how-it-effects-you-2014-1. Accessed 20 May 2017.

9: Gallagher, Fergal. “Here’s Why Net Neutrality Ruling Could Cost You More Money” Tech Times, 2 Mar. 2015, www.techtimes.com/articles/36593/20150302/why-net-neutrality-cost-money.htm. Accessed 20 May 2017.

10: “Xfinity – All Offers.” https://www.xfinity.com/learn/offers, www.xfinity.com/learn/offers. Accessed 20 May 2017.

11: Denisenko, Sergey. “The implications of the end of net neutrality.” TechCrunch, 20 Feb. 2017, techcrunch.com/2017/02/20/the-implications-of-the-end-of-net-neutrality/. Accessed 20 May 2017.

12: Hu, Elise. “3.7 Million Comments Later, Here’s Where Net Neutrality Stands.” NPR.org, 17 Sept. 2014, www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2014/09/17/349243335/3-7-million-comments-later-heres-where-net-neutrality-stands. Accessed 20 May 2017.

13: Dunn, Jeff. “As Trump’s FCC boss looks to kill today’s net neutrality laws, Silicon Valley companies are starting to push back.” Business Insider, 12 Apr. 2017, www.businessinsider.com/fcc-ajit-pai-net-neutrality-internet-association-google-facebook-netflix-2017-4/#-1. Accessed 20 May 2017.

14: McDowell, Robert M. “Net Neutrality Vs. Free Speech.” Wall Street Journal, 29 Aug, 2014, pp. A.13, SIRS Issues Researcher,https://sks.sirs.com