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Net neutrality is the principle whereby the Internet traffic is all treated the same. This means that the contents or data on the Internet is accessible to everyone. Internet Service Provider (ISP) connects consumers to the materials or sources on the Internet. Net neutrality hence ensures that the ISPs do not intentionally influence what consumers can see or how fast they can see or charge consumers more to access the contents. In the USA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had changing views on it. It was passed as an order in 2015, but was repealed in 2017.
In 2015, under Obama’s rule, FCC passed the net neutrality order to safeguard this principle. It ensures that ISPs do not control the web traffic or offer more benefits to companies who pay them more money. Without net neutrality, FCC believed that it is unfair to small or new companies or technologies that want to grow. There may also be lesser competitors, which lead to lesser stress for companies to innovate. This is because ISPs may choose to favour those bigger companies that they can benefit from instead of giving the new companies a chance. Hence, this suggests that net neutrality could allow companies, big or small, to compete equally on the Internet. FCC also wanted consumers to be able to enjoy the benefits of accessing the Internet without restrictions and not be deceived by the ISPs who could have controlled which content, quality and speed of content flowing to the consumers. Furthermore, FCC felt that net neutrality would encourage more broadband investment and equipment, which was important since USA needed more and better broadband. Hence, FCC believed in the importance of net neutrality for the country.
However, in 2017, the rule for net neutrality was taken down through voting. The FCC thought that the rule was a wrong decision. They believed that net neutrality discouraged innovation or ideas that the ISPs could freely try since they were under much control of FCC. Smaller ISP companies also could not come in and improve access to the remote, non-urban areas allowing more consumers’ reach to the Internet. This is because the cost of covering the regulations leads to ISPs not having enough benefits or funds to build or invest in better infrastructures that could benefit consumers. Furthermore, greater investment in the network infrastructure could have created more jobs for people. FCC also believed that net neutrality did not encourage market competition among the ISPs due to the regulations. Thus, it may lead to higher prices, slower speed and fewer choices of broadband for consumers. This suggests that consumers would be at a disadvantaged and would not be able to enjoy access to Internet as much as they want. Hence, the FCC was not in favour of net neutrality as it did not bring much advantage to people.
Overall, the FCC changed from supporting net neutrality to opposing it. This is due to change in the chairperson of FCC who had differing views. However, FCC still believes in allowing people to enjoy free and open Internet. Hence, ISPs have to provide information about their network management ways. The Federal Trade Commission also could safeguard net neutrality to a certain extent if the ISPs violate the laws of fair competition.
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