In recent months, we have seen loads of information on various media sources about net neutrality. With the vote on December 14th by the FCC to repeal net neutrality, it is important to understand the issue and the history of net neutrality to know how this change could possibly impact you. Although issues surrounding this topic are very complex, the actual meaning is not. Net neutrality is the principle that the company that connects you to the internet (internet service provider, or “ISP”) does not control what you do on the internet.
The term net neutrality was first coined in a law review article by Columbia University law professor, Tim Wu. This article examines the history of discrimination practices by broadband operators in the early 2000s and the concept of network neutrality in telecommunications policy.
In the years between 2003 and 2010 there are many cases of internet service providers favoring or blocking certain websites. One example of this is the North Carolina-based ISP Madison River Communications preventing their subscribers from using VoIP services that competes with them. Another example is Comcast blocking Bittorrent. In both of these cases, the FCC stepped in and ordered the companies to stop.
In a failed attempt at updating the Communications Act, the US Senate considered a bill that would have included a reference to net neutrality. It wasn’t until President Barack Obama was elected, known for his advocacy of net neutrality, did the ball start rolling with passing laws for net neutrality.
The open internet order started in 2009 with the FCC issuing a notice of proposed rule-making. In 2010 Google and Verizon attempted to make a deal that would exclude larger parts of the internet from the net neutrality protection. Later in 2010, the FCC found authority to issue the Open Internet Rules. These rules were to take effect on November 20th, 2011.
With the new Open Internet Rules, AT&T was required to stop blocking Facetime to those subscribers who did not enter into a “mobile share pan”. During an oral argument in 2013 about the FCC’s Open Internet Rules, Verizon proved why Net Neutrality is important by stating if it weren’t for the rules of net neutrality, they would enter into commercial agreements with websites and services.
In 2014 the D.C. Circuit overturned the FCC’s Open Internet Rules; the FCC followed up with a couple of different proposals to insure net neutrality. One included allowing fast and slow lanes of internet which was met with a public outcry. June of 2014, the Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act was introduced to stop paid prioritization.
After public complaints toward the big four wireless carries and endorsements for open internet rules grounded in Title II by President Obama and the FCC chairman, the FCC passed Title II net neutrality rules. These rules applied net neutrality to both wired and wireless connections to the internet.
On April 26, 2017, the new FCC chairman announced plans to roll back net neutrality rules. This was followed by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals denying petitions asking the court to reconsider upholding the FCC’s 2015 open internet order. In May of 2017, the FCC voted to begin the rollback process of net neutrality rules. This was met by a net neutrality rally urging the FCC to preserve the rules. The FCC voted on December 14, 2017 to repeal the net neutrality regulations in a 3-2 vote.
The chairman of the FCC Ajit Pai decided to dismantle the net neutrality regulations because he believed that there was no problem to solve originally and that these regulations actually hurt the internet. This statement is based off of the fact that there has been a decline in high speed networks since 2015 and multiple other reasons. Pai’s entire written statement explains all the reasons.
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