The internet is a favorite place for many to learn, entertain, shop, and stay up to date with the latest trends and news. It is all possible due to net neutrality.
Net neutrality gives users access to an open internet. It provides the freedom and flexibility to access almost any type of content on the internet, even the one forbidden in other countries, keeping the internet equal, free, and fair.
This article explains net neutrality, its importance, and how it affects our society and future.
Table of Contents
What Is Net Neutrality?
Net neutrality is the concept of internet regulations stating that all internet traffic, regardless of source, destination, or content, should be treated equally. It assures all online content is accessible to all internet users without discrimination or favoritism towards any website or service.
Net neutrality means internet service providers (ISPs) — large corporations like Comcast, Verizon, etc. — should treat all online content equally. They can't play favorites or charge more for certain content, even if some users use it more than others. For example, they can't charge users more for using Netflix instead of Google. They also can't make it harder to access or use certain services or run them slower.
Net neutrality means service providers can’t discriminate or play with data based on user preferences. This way, it ensures that everyone has fair and equal access to the internet, regardless of what websites or services they use.
Net Neutrality Recent Developments & Implications
Under President Obama, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) developed a set of regulations and a government policy that allowed for almost complete net neutrality. It included regulations of certain illegal content, but other than that, the internet is free to access and use regardless of what service you are looking to play around with.
These net neutrality regulations went into effect in 2015 — but in December 2017, the new Republican FCC passed an initial vote to repeal these regulations.
There was a big argument over whether internet service providers should be able to decide what content is important and restrict access to it. Rolling back net neutrality regulations could have long-lasting impacts on individuals and businesses. And after the FCC vote in December, tensions were high.
On May 16, 2018, the Senate voted to reinstate net neutrality rules and overlook the FCC vote. This vote still had to go through the House before the fight ended. And it was a battle, with the Trump administration backing the FCC decision and the House possibly favoring the president.
The latest event was in October 2019 when a federal appeals court upheld the vote to abolish net neutrality.
All of this assuages some of the growing fears because the future of our society is drastically dependent on the internet and the information we can gather and absorb through it.
Repealing these regulations could have disastrous effects on individuals and small businesses long term, even though rolling back these laws could have some idealistic pros when you first put it under a microscope. But the internet remains free — and will remain accessible until the House brings this issue to a vote.
Net Neutrality Pros And Cons
The net neutrality debate has its proponents and opponents. The former believes these regulations are necessary for an open, honest, and efficient market. The latter says these regulations do the opposite, restricting companies and forcing them to comply with governmental regulations that ultimately hurt them in the long run.
Net Neutrality: The Pros
- Equal Playing Field
- Freedom of Expression Protection
- ISPs Can’t Block Content on a Whim
- Equal Opportunity for Innovation
- ISPs Classified as Utility Providers
- No Arbitrary Rise in Prices
- Criminal Activities Are Monitored
- Fake News Can Be Eliminated
Pro #1: Equal Playing Field
Net neutrality regulations provide internet service providers (ISPs) and other online businesses, brands, and services with an fair playing field. If this playing field is no longer equal, consumers will suffer.
All the power would be in the hands of ISPs and broadband providers that can say what online services and sites are accessible, which cost more and aren’t allowed altogether for financial or political reasons.
Pro #2: Freedom of Expression Protection
Net neutrality regulation promotes freedom of expression by allowing people to say or do whatever they want on the internet as long as it's legal. Brands can also promote their opinions without being discriminated against, as long as it's within the law. Some argue that this leads to the spread of fake news, but others believe that it combats fake news by allowing access to all perspectives, not just those supported by a specific ISP's political views.
Pro #3: ISPs Can’t Block Content on a Whim
Net neutrality keeps ISPs from eliminating content they don’t like or disagree with. It also stops them from putting pressure on sites that use up more bandwidth because all sites have the equal right to exist. ISPs can’t have their agendas thanks to the regulations put in place by the 2015 net neutrality regulations.
Pro #4: Equal Opportunity for Innovation
Whether you’re a startup or a Fortune 500 company, an equal internet means equal access to consumers, investors, and services that could help boost your business. While the internet is free, all businesses get an even start. This also increases competition, helps Industry 4.0 to expand and promotes a growth drive because all parties have to fight on the same footing.
Pro #5: ISPs Classified as Utility Providers
Net neutrality regulations classify ISPs as utility providers, which means they must be accessible to everyone. This also means that the FCC can impose regulations on them, such as pricing and provider requirements, which could limit their profits. ISPs are against the rule because they fear they'll have to provide internet to more people for lower costs if it becomes too essential.
Pro #6: No Arbitrary Rise in Prices
With net neutrality laws, all content is created equal and can’t be discriminated against or throttled with higher fees to continue running as they were meant to. By keeping these regulations in place, ISPs can’t arbitrarily charge more for certain services or higher speeds. They also can’t exploit customers' reluctance to lose popular services by increasing fees.
Pro #7: Criminal Activities Are Monitored
All illegal online activities are prohibited, such as buying and selling drugs or soliciting sex. Although it is possible to find such content online, it is regulated and not easily accessible. Removing these regulations could make it easier to access this content.
Pro #8: Fake News Can Be Eliminated
Deregulating the internet could lead to ISPs being more focused on producing accurate content and removing false information, including fake news. They could control the available sites and eliminate those with no factual basis. However, the downside is that ISPs may align with their own opinions, potentially leading to bias and censorship.
Net Neutrality: The Cons
- Unwanted Data Mining
- Prioritization of IoT Services and Technologies
- Increased Prices To Supplement Increased Service
- Questionable Content Becomes More Prominent
Con #1: Unwanted Data Mining
Without regulation, anyone can access and exploit personal data online, which is a major privacy concern. Big corporations may benefit by collecting and using consumer data for their gains.
However, this could be intrusive and unwanted for average consumers as their online activities could be monitored and scrutinized. Additionally, companies that collect and sell consumer data may become obsolete without regulations in place to protect consumer privacy.
Con #2: Prioritization of IoT Services and Technologies
If net neutrality regulations are reversed, internet providers could prioritize IT services and technologies, devoting more time, money, and resources to these innovations. This could benefit society by making medical devices and other life-changing solutions more efficient and accessible through fast lanes.
Con #3: Increased Prices To Supplement Increased Service
Price increases could initially impact users and online brands, but it could lead to better performance and efficiency in the long term. Users would receive the desired content faster without going through irrelevant material. Higher payments could help service providers eliminate unwanted content more quickly.
Con #4: Questionable Content Becomes More Prominent
An unregulated internet can be a breeding ground for questionable content, including offensive, discriminatory, racist, and obscene material. Without federal regulation, there will be no oversight to ensure this content is not easily accessible. While ISPs can still regulate content, it may come down to a financial issue, and providers may be able to buy their way in, allowing this content to thrive.
Net Neutrality Laws: Supporters and Opponents
Now that you understand the pros and cons of net neutrality, it’s essential to understand who is taking which side. This will help you better understand the debate as a whole and help you form a more cohesive and comprehensive opinion for yourself.
Proponents of a free market, open-source software, and small government intervention favor repealing net neutrality laws.
They believe that the government should intervene in as little ways as possible with everyday functions. And as the internet has become something of daily use, they feel it is up to businesses and states to decide what and how people use it.
Of course, some ISPs advocate for deregulation. Deregulation would allow them to select what content is distributed, who sees it and at what price. This approach would turn the internet into a business, with the highest bidder winning.
Similarly, web development and software development businesses that create online content would benefit if the internet became deregulated. They would have more power and influence over what content gets shown and who gets to see it, as long as they have the money to pay for it. In other words, these companies would have an advantage in promoting their content or opinions online, as they would have the financial means to do so.
On the other hand, most internet users support net neutrality since they do not want to lose access to services or pay more for the services they use.
The Future of Net Neutrality and What It Means for Businesses
Currently, 311.3 million people in America use the Internet to advance various aspects of their daily lives and this number will continue to increase. Net neutrality has played an essential role in ensuring everyone has equal internet access in America. It's helped spread information, eliminate fake news, and bring people closer.
The recent decision by the FCC to repeal net neutrality regulations has raised concerns about the potential for internet service providers to prioritize certain content or charge higher fees for faster internet speeds, limiting access and stifling innovation.
Although net neutrality undoubtedly has pros and cons, policymakers and the public must continue advocating for it to maintain a free and open internet for all.
Net Neutrality FAQs
1. What are the effects of net neutrality?
Net neutrality ensures that all internet traffic is treated equally, without discrimination or favoritism from internet service providers (ISPs). Without net neutrality, ISPs could prioritize certain content or charge higher fees for faster internet speeds, limiting access and stifling innovation.
2. Why is net neutrality important?
Net neutrality ensures open and free internet for all. It guarantees everyone equal internet access without discrimination or favoritism from ISPs. It promotes fair competition, innovation, and information-sharing. Net neutrality prevents ISPs from controlling what content users can access or charging higher fees for certain (usually high-demand) content.
3. What would happen without net neutrality?
Without net neutrality, ISPs could control what users see online, charge more for certain content or services, or entirely block them. ISPs could limit access to certain websites or online services and stifle innovation. Giant corporations would get an unfair advantage compared to start-ups and small businesses since they can afford to pay more to ISPs for faster internet speeds.
4. Is there net neutrality in the US?
The US had net neutrality regulations in place in 2015 under President Obama, but the new Republican FCC passed a vote to repeal these regulations in December 2017. This decision was upheld by a federal appeals court in October 2019. The future of net neutrality in the US is uncertain, and the potential consequences of repealing these regulations could be disastrous for individuals and small businesses in the long term. Currently, there are ongoing efforts to restore net neutrality regulations in the US.