Internet users pay regular fees in order to gain access to the internet. In turn, internet service providers must allow equal ease of access to all data available on the internet. This principle was coined net neutrality first by Tim Wu, a media law professor. The FCC, or Federal Communications Committee, a government agency regulating television, radio, and phone industries, voted on December 15th, 2017 to repeal net neutrality rules implemented by President Barack Obama on February 26th, 2015. These rules were driven by principles of equal access, no paid prioritized websites, and transparency between consumers, internet service providers, and the internet. Obama said his decision would “protect innovation and create a level playing field for the next generation of entrepreneurs.”
FCC chairman Ajit Pai argued the repeal of net neutrality rules allowed the US government to “stop micromanaging the internet.” Pai stated that it was most beneficial for internet development to “let things develop organically and if you see any competitive conduct from a company or companies then you take targeted action to address that problem.” This method contradicts net neutrality’s belief in the regulation of internet accessibility.
On January 9, 2018, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo introduced Senate Bill 460, or the California Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018. This bill proposes to ban internet service providers from “throttling” internet connection and allowing paid prioritization. Mayor Liccardo believes that the FCC no longer acts independently of the activities it regulates, and instead makes decisions based on profitability.
Supporters of net neutrality, including Yahoo!, Amazon, Twitter, and Microsoft, emphasize that the principle eliminates “gatekeepers” which can use “throttling” to control and slow down internet connections. Net neutrality upholds the end-to-end principle, which states that intermediate nodes in the connection between consumers and internet data are nondiscriminatory. Without net neutrality, many concur that the internet’s end-to-end principle will no longer be preserved. Most frequently, supporters caution that ending internet neutrality would endanger the internet’s fundamental values of access to information for all and to all.
While some regard net neutrality as an opportunity for exposure for growing entrepreneurs, companies such as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast, perceive it as a competition and innovation killer. Computer scientist Robert Kahn voiced, “net neutrality is a slogan that would freeze innovation in the core of the internet.” Net neutrality would reduce investments in broadband internet networks because of the prohibition of prioritized internet access. This could stifle economic and technological growth. In addition, net neutrality could force small internet service providers to be subject to added taxes, straining their resources and potentially forcing them to raise prices.
The battle over internet neutrality encompasses the need for a balance between the government and the internet service market. If the government has increased control over the internet service market, it will take increased expenses and monitoring to make sure that internet accessibility is equal for everyone. Internet service providers will have to stretch their resources to reach consumers and will lose money after discontinuing more costly fast internet services. If there is less government management of the internet, competition among providers will increase and consumer costs will be lowered. Popular service providers may be able to preference large companies with more expensive, fast-connection options. Companies which pay more for this service will be prioritized and preeminent for internet users compared to other small companies which may not be able to afford that service and will therefore be obscured.
It is important for a central authority to manage internet infrastructure and equally significant for the internet service market to be able to maximize innovation and growth. While internet neutrality may preserve the internet’s basic principles of free speech, it could also damage the service providers, which are essential to the existence and expansion of internet technology.