Net Neutrality is a Good Thing

by

July 21, 2017

Oof. What a topic.

So… Net Neutrality. You’ve probably heard a little about it by now. The media brings it up occasionally. They slip it in between segments about the President’s tweets and how many days before Beyoncé’s twins can start eating solid foods.

The pundits and talking heads alternate between “Net Neutrality is bad” and “Net Neutrality is good!” They talk about it for a little bit here and there but ultimately go right back to trying to define whatever “covfefe” might mean. They never spend enough time getting into the meat of the argument.

Why is Net Neutrality important? We’ve been asking ourselves that question a lot recently. What exactly is Net Neutrality? We’ve been asking ourselves that question too. How will Net Neutrality affect our business and the businesses of our clients? You get the idea.

So we decided to give it a go and try and answer those question. We thought it’d be a good idea to share those answers with you as well. You see, as a Managed Security Services provider who advocates cloud computing and cloud based security, Net Neutrality (or the lack there of) could greatly affect our livelihood. 

So, let’s start with the basics…

What is Net Neutrality?

The definition of Net Neutrality is “the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.”

How long has this battle been going on?

Since about 2002, so 15 years. It started when the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) decided Internet access wasn’t a “cable modem service” (which isn’t regulated) & changed it to an “interstate information service” (which is regulated). (https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-220835A1.txt)

It’s been a long, drawn out battle and if your interested in following it you can do so here (https://www.sutori.com/story/net-neutrality-law-timeline-4ce8) but in summary it’s this:

After the classification change Internet Service Providers became subject to FCC jurisdiction and subjected to Title II regulations under the Communications act of 1934.

How does a Title II classification apply to Net Neutrality?

That’s actually really straight forward and easy to find in the Communications Act document. Title II starts on page 35 but the good stuff starts a few pages later. To save you some time we’ve shared it below. 

Title II says that:

“It shall be unlawful for any common carrier to make any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services for or in connection with like communication service, directly or indirectly, by any means or device, or to make or give any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to any particular person, class of persons, or locality, or to subject any particular person, class of persons, or locality to any undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage.”

–  SEC. 202. [47 U.S.C. 202] DISCRIMINATION AND PREFERENCES.

Pretty self explanatory, right? Under Title II guidelines, ISP providers are not allowed to discriminate against companies who provide streaming services or cloud computing services  while enabling consumers to imbibe as much of that content or service as they can afford without interruption.

The FCC is currently trying to roll back the Title II regulations.

Why is the FCC trying to roll back Title II regulations and what do they hope to accomplish by doing so?

The Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai (pictured below with the ridiculous coffee mug he drinks out of every day) believes the Title II regulations limit the growth of smaller ISPs and should be rolled back partially, if not completely, to foster growth amongst them.

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Some smaller ISP feel that they aren’t able to comply with those regulations in a cost effective manner and they should be repealed. Mr. Pai is, according to his own statements (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/26/technology/net-neutrality.html), in favor of dismantling Title II regulations (and effectively net neutrality) to help the little guy out.

Will rolling back Net Neutrality help the little guy out?

No, probably not. Remember when the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act “modernized” the financial industry? One of the act’s auspices was it’d help smaller banks and financial institutions grow and modernize to compete with bigger banks and financial institutions.

Yeah, how’d that work out? Not well. Not well at all.

2008’s financial crisis came about in part because the financial industry was deregulated and left to its own devices. In theory, helping the little guy out sounds great and deregulation should happen across the board.  But unfortunately history tells us that’s not what always happens.

When the financial industry was deregulated the smaller banks and financial institutions didn’t make more money, they were swallowed up by the bigger banks and financial institutions. Eventually we had a financial industry that was “too big to fail.” And then it failed.

Obviously, the internet can’t fail like the Banks did, but regulations like those found in Title II make sure ISPs have to respect their customers and they aren’t allowed to steam roll them. Without Title II things could get messy.

So Net Neutrality is important?

You bet your britches it is. Imagine what we mentioned above, but substitute the financial industry with the Internet. Imagine ISPs that get so big that they aren’t beholden to anybody and can do anything they want. That includes limiting what content you consume and what services you use.

As Mr. Pai has said, the intent behind rolling back Net Neutrality is to help smaller ISPs survive, but there’s an underlying fear he’s attempting to roll it back because lobbyists from the bigger ISPs want a  more ISP friendly Pay to Play system to replace what’s currently in use.

Allowing ISPs to self govern replaces regulation with censorship. It’s as simple and straight forwards at that. Integris is against that. That is not what we want to see happen. We do business on the Internet. You do business on the Internet. A repeal of Title II regulations could potentially change the way we work and live online.

All of us already pay a premium for connectivity and the services we use. If Mr. Pai and his subordinates and friends have their way, we’ll end up paying a lot more and our online experience could be extremely limited.

What’s next?

Nobody really knows. The country is fairly divided on the issue. At least the House and Senate are, but that’s not too surprising. Luckily the court of public opinion seems to in favor of keeping Net Neutrality around. It’s probably because people have grown accustomed to using the Internet the way they want to.

It helps that big companies like Facebook and Google support Net Neutrality and even Comcast has come out and (sort of) voiced their support for it (while still advocating for the rollback of Title II regulations) http://corporate.comcast.com/comcast-voices/comcast-supports-net-neutrality-and-reversal-of-title-ii-classification-title-ii-is-not-net-neutrality

Even if the FCC is successful in rolling Title II back it’s not a guaranteed win for them. Organizations like the ACLU and others plan to challenge the decision and ultimately the battle will be resolved by the Supreme Court.

If you’re personally concerned about protecting Net Neutrality, websites like www.battleforthenet.com offer a fairly viable means of contacting the FCC to voice your displeasure.

Have a stance on Net Neutrality? Let us know in the comment section.

Carl Keyser is the Content Manager at Integris.

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