The internet may never be the same again after news resurfaced last week about the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) plans to end net-neutrality rules that make the web more accessible to all. The term was created by Columbia University media law professor Tim Wu in 2003. The concept created a framework for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to treat all data across the internet the same regardless of user, platform, content, application, or method of communication. In other words net-neutrality forbids major service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T from blocking, slowing service, or charge fees for specific use on the internet.
This leaves the potential for consumers to pay more for internet services you may already be receiving. What net-neutrality allows is regulation over the web. Similar to the way the US government regulates water, electricity, and gas supplies presently. These companies are currently limited in the services they can offer customers in in effort to protect the patron.
Why Net-Neutrality Really Matters?
Comcast has been caught “throttling” or slowing the speed of uploads from peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing apps. Comcast did not stop these actions until the FCC ordered them to stop. AT&T was found blocking the Facetime app for iPhone users unless they were a purchaser of a shared data plan. Last July, Verizon was accused of throttling when their users noticed slow Netflix and YouTube playback.
Ending net-neutrality could mean smaller institutions like public libraries and schools could get lesser broadband access unless they pay a premium for better service. An open-internet will restrict barriers to entry for all. While also protecting the consumer to allow for complaints to FCC when they feel they are being mistreated by the big guys.
So far Comcast, AT&T and Verizon have all released statements in favor of maintaining much of the structure net-neutrality has put in place. This will remain to be seen. As for now the rest of us will have to wait until the December 14th FCC meeting to learn the fate of net-neutrality as we know it.