The internet is a huge environment and one of the few areas where experiences are not prioritized by sales, but by the users themselves since all fulfill the users’ expectations.
However, even as net neutrality appears to be the only reasonable approach, there are several issues that remain including the coronavirus crisis that continues to play out.
What is net neutrality?
That all Internet connections must be treated equally is net neutrality (also called open internet). Without net neutrality, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can discriminate against sites or websites and control what consumers can and cannot see.
The FCC first thought about scaling back net neutrality regulations in 2017. Through no longer classifying ISPs under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, they may charge extra for similar content, slow down their competitors’ services or limit access to the Internet entirely.
By the end of 2017, the FCC had revoked net neutrality and allowed ISPs to sell their users’ data without their permission. In 2019, the House of Representatives attempted to reinstate net neutrality, but that effort is still being debated with the FCC due to the state of the coronavirus crisis.
Is net neutrality good or bad?
There are several reasons for and against net neutrality, and that impacts both Internet consumers and ISPs in various ways. From the point of view of the consumer, net neutrality ensures that all connections are handled equally, and ISPs should not block the internet. Net neutrality for ISPs, though, ensures that the government must regulate how it conducts its operation.
Pros of net neutrality
Net neutrality ensures the playing field is fair. Nobody gets preferential care because they’ve got more capital. Without it, ISP’s will raise the speed of connections to websites or to small enterprises’ services. Other content creators on YouTube, Twitch, and other platforms will suffer too. None of them can deal with major corporations.
Net neutrality guarantees freedom of expression. ISPs cannot censor content or throttle websites because they dislike them. Without net neutrality, there’s nothing to protect them from suppressing content online. Net neutrality means everybody can have access to everything on the internet. If consuming high-quality online content digitally is a privilege reserved for those who can afford it, social inequality may grow, and this kind of social discourse may not look good for these ISPs.
There is no additional expense to the content. Without net neutrality, ISPs can charge more companies to develop their services, such as better-quality video streaming, online gaming, and so on. When this occurs, these businesses will pass on their current financial responsibility to the consumers.
Cons of net neutrality
No one charges for the data. Users pay for the internet utility, not the data. In 2018, video streaming accounted for 57% of worldwide bandwidth used. Customers who don’t use as much bandwidth may not want to continue to pay for high-bandwidth operations with the technology required. According to some against net neutrality, if Google, Microsoft, et al could be paid for bringing their resource-intensive resources, they could invest in improving their networks and expanding them further. However, evidence complicates this point, with the FCC’s own industry-funded analysis finding that although expenditure dropped under net neutrality by 2% in 2015 and 3% in 2016, the largest ISP boosted expenditures, as did others.
Illegal content is common. Offensive, dangerous, and unlawful material is open to everyone, and hard to delete. Although there are plenty of technology providers that encourage families to limit the places accessible on a family machine, more children use smartphones and mobile apps without parental oversight to get online. Removing net neutrality allows screening of dangerous material possible for ISPs, but this is a slight move away from censorship.
There wouldn’t be any improved infrastructure. If ISPs cannot demand more for their facilities, they would not be willing to invest in the infrastructure. With net neutrality, by charging for it, they collect vast volumes of data. This money may extend the high-speed network to remote areas.
Another possibility is dealing with bothersome regulations. The FCC will track enforcement by the ISPs with certain laws under net neutrality. This requires two reports a year and can become costly to ISPs of any scale.
Will we get net neutrality back?
Despite the House attempting to pass net neutrality, nothing is clear. The bill also must pass in the Senate, let alone at this moment, when more people are operating from home and ISPs are scrambling to offer infrastructure, even eliminating data limits, the problem is still controversial. The current crisis has sparked demands for the FCC to control the internet as a utility and to revoke the elimination of net neutrality rights by the Trump administration. The controversy over net neutrality would most definitely persist for a time because there is still no evidence of consensus.