Recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to regulate how Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) handle the content they deliver to consumers. This vote ensures “Net Neutrality,” or the equal treatment of all content, rather than allowing companies to self-regulate the speed and content of the Internet for its users. As part of National Consumer Protection Week, let’s take a look at your rights as consumers of the Internet and the impact Net Neutrality may have.
Video: Net Neutrality Explained
To get started, watch this video from the Wall Street Journal for an overview of Net Neutrality.
The Reason for Net Neutrality
According to the Free Press Action Fund, “Net Neutrality has made the Internet an unrivaled space for free speech, civic participation, innovation and opportunity. Net Neutrality prohibits online discrimination and gives any individual, organization or company the same chance to share their ideas and find an audience.” The Internet has been accessible to anyone who pays for the service or visits a public library.
ISP’s, like Comcast and Verizon, are challenging consumers’ rights to access whatever they want at the speed they are paying for. In some cases, it’s for leverage against major companies, like Netflix. Since Netflix users are very active on the Internet and demand a lot of bandwidth, ISP’s were demanding Netflix to pay money for better streaming capabilities for you, the consumer. We became unsuspecting pawns!
Equal Treatment of Content: Protecting Consumers’ Rights
Net Neutrality steps in to regulate the ISP’s ability to slow streaming speeds or block content under Title II of the Communications Act. This guarantees that there will be no discrimination or unequal treatment of content. Consumers are able to enjoy the Internet without bias, influence or unnecessary hindrance. The FCC voted in favor of Net Neutrality on February 26th. “So today after a decade of debate in an open, robust year-long process, we finally have legally sustainable rules to ensure that the Internet stays fast, fair and open,” said Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman.
Opposition of Net Neutrality
As the video highlighted, this issue has opposition. Some Republicans and citizens feel that Net Neutrality undermines the free market and acts as unnecessary government regulation. They worry innovation and growth will be stunted. In the video, it was suggested that consumers have the right to switch their ISP if unhappy with the service. However, contracts and availability of other providers makes this nearly impossible for most Americans.
For now, we can rest easy knowing that all our favorite Netflix shows and YouTube videos will be streamed at the proper speed. Thanks to Net Neutrality, consumers’s rights are protected from unequal treatment of content on the Internet by their service provider. This debate will continue so stay tuned for any changes to your Internet rights.