Blog Post

Net Neutrality Explained and Why You Should Care


Net neutrality is back in the news with the FCC addressing how it may impact businesses and consumers. John Oliver recently dedicated a segment on his HBO show that went viral on YouTube. In it, he urged the American public to voice their concerns on the FCC website, which ended up crashing under such heavy volume. There are a lot of factors at play with the information superhighway, and it has never been easy to regulate. In today's Daily Brown Bag, we wanted to break down what net neutrality is and what the recent rulings have covered.

Also available on YouTube.

TRANSCRIPTION:

Hello and welcome to the Daily Brown Bag. Today, we're going to be talking about the recent net neutrality ruling by the FCC. I'm Chad Hill and I'm joined by Adam Stetzer.

Hey, good afternoon Chad. Net neutrality is a pretty hot topic. A lot of people have been watching this very closely and as expected, the FCC put out some statements and rulings on the open internet that people are digesting in the news. And the rules call for, on what they've published, equal treatment for all legal content traffic. So that's sort of in the headline, but as people have digested, Chad, what's really going on, it doesn't sound as decisive as we might hope because they didn't really ban the ability for providers, for access to the internet to offer pay for faster access which has been at the heart of this debate, the so-called pay for fast lanes to get your content through quicker.

So there are many still concerned that this leaves the door open for inequality on the internet, further division between the big corporations that have a lot of money to pay for fast lanes, and those who do not. And protesters are calling for regulation of the internet more as a common courier, Chad, which would treat it more like a utility. And the interesting history here is that until 2002, internet lines were regulated as if they were a utility under Title Two of the Communications Act which treated it much like the telephone networks. And that all changed in 2002 under Bush when the internet lines were deregulated. The East were given a lot more freedom to do what they want, which brings us to today's news.

It really does and I think one of the things that is in this is that, you know, there is a flip side too, Adam. There's people concerned about the lack or what would happen if these fast lanes existed, but there's also people who are worried that stricter regulation will discourage investment in bringing broadband to more people. So one of the things that we key in on here is the fact that the FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, announced two things that are very important. These are two quotes from Wheeler. "I will not allow the national asset of an open internet to be compromised," and the second one is, "The prospect of a gatekeeper choosing winners and losers on the internet is unacceptable."

So certainly, you hear in those quotes that he definitely, it seems, to at least say that this idea of the gatekeepers in the fast lane is not good. But as you mentioned Adam, the rules left the door open. So where we are going now is that we're going into some--the next four months, there will be open comments where they'll be gathering feedback from all the different sides and this is really a critically important thing for all of us who are involved in the internet either as consumers or as business operators for a couple reasons.

These changes will dictate how the internet works going forward and for consumers, it could mean things like higher costs in order to offset some of the increased fees. For example, if Netflix has to pay a fast lane charge, they may pass some of that charge onto us as consumers. And the other one, as a content provider, the big concern is that it will certainly favor the large companies who can pay these extra fees for faster access at the expense or at the detriment of smaller start-ups who are trying to be nimble and take advantage of how much the internet allowed people to very quickly enter and get massive distribution. So a definitely very interesting story here, Adam.

Yeah. We'll keep watching it. And as you really think about these points, Chad, it is quite fascinating. This idea that the big companies could control access, I think it's distasteful to a lot of folks and certainly understandable as you work through those points, but also as you think about experiences with utilities such as the gas company or the phone company particularly with 4D regulation, those are pretty nasty, bad experiences. So I think we can all see that competition has some advantages, too. So not an easy issue by any stretch. It will be very interesting to stay tuned to this one. That's our Brown Bag coverage of the net neutrality ruling that's coming out. I'm sure we'll be shooting more in the future. We appreciate you joining us today. We hope you'll leave us a comment and subscribe to our YouTube channel.