Section B / TOPIC 1 – TECH & POLICY
NETWORK NEUTRALITY: THE FUTURE OF THE INTERNET
Group 1: Joseph Frangione, Yongshi Ouyang, Samuel Adjei,, Jake Barbiere, Natalie Colucci, Anthony Fiumefreddo, Jesse Flood, Madhavi Maitri
How Net Neutrality Works
- Net neutrality is like ordering packages to ship to your house – all packages should be shipped at the same rate/speed.
- If net neutrality is removed by law, one company can pay extra $$$ to be prioritized and get on the first truck
- If that company doesn’t pay $$$, they get shut out and your package will be delivered late
- Has implications for democracy and commerce
- Tom Wheeler of the FCC proposes to regulate ISPs as “utility providers”
Net Neutrality – Wikipedia
- Net neutrality preserves free speech on the internet from blocking the content by prohibiting internet service providers. This was implemented in 2015 as a common carrier, same as telephone service.
- The concept of Net neutrality is supported by India, America and also promotes competition by providing a level playing field for a new set of entrepreneurs. It Protects consumers by preventing ISPs from speeding, slowing, or charging extra fees for the preferred content.
- Net neutrality reduces investment in internet services resulting in less access and higher costs for consumers. FCC reported that they are a burden to ISP providers and also exceeds their authority. For example, the ISP CenturyLink to meet regulation rules of net neutrality extra paperwork, with a high amount.
- The largest internet companies like Facebook, Google, YouTube reached significant growth in the development in the absence of Net neutrality.
The Net Neutrality Debate
- Depending on the audience and players involved, net neutrality can have multiple definitions and meanings. To simplify, network neutrality is the basic principle that Internet users should be able to access any content they choose and any application without any restrictions or limitations imposed by their Internet service provider.
- The players of net neutrality can be grouped into the Deregulators (those who are not in favor, such as cable companies) and the Openists (those who are in favor, such as content providers like Disney).
- The history of the debate was centered on the Federal Communications Commission recognizing the cable industry’s media monopoly over its own networks (2002). This topic became more popular in 2005 as the debate broadened in newspapers and trade journals.
- Limited deregulation of net neutrality has led to U.S. telecommunications companies being able to maintain a duopoly and minimize competition through mergers and acquisitions. This results in the consumers having fewer provider choices and more product choices made for them by the dominant companies.
- Based on future predictions and their different visions, achieving a national consensus on net neutrality is not likely. Deregulators believe in bandwidth scarcity and their tiered-pricing approach while Openists believe in a bandwidth surplus if we build it. The telecommunications policies could be faced with short term damage on the ability to innovate and compete at the global level due to the debate on net neutrality.
THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: NO FAST LANES FOR THE RICH
- In a 3-2 decision, the FCC voted to treat the internet as a utility and be governed as such. The public would be entitled to a 25Mb service, which is akin to other utilities like water, and electricity.
- The decision also banned “paid fast lanes”, eliminating practices such as: faster internet speeds, prioritization, and throttling.
- The net neutrality ruling stops providers from banning access to certain websites or applications.
- Mobile carriers, like Verizon and AT&T, lobbied heavily against net neutrality, because they stand to lose profits made on offering different levels of service. Sprint and T-Mobile did not lobby against Net Neutrality, citing that it would not harm their business.
- Net Neutrality, additionally notes Title II as their legal footing; Title II essentially treats services, like telephone landlines, as a public utility.
- Republican members of the FCC, and GOP in general, were averse to net neutrality, citing it as an inhibitor of freedoms, and leading to more costs picked up by consumers and ISPs.
TRUMP: THE REVERSAL
- The FCC voted to repeal the net neutrality regulations that were set in 2015 during the Obama administration.
- The federal government will also no longer regulate high-speed internet delivery as if it were a utility, like phone service.
- Several public interest groups, the Internet Association, the trade group that represents big tech firms such as Google and Facebook, were considering legal action.
- Major telecom companies like AT&T and Comcast, as well as two of the industry’s major trade groups, have promised consumers that their experiences online would not change after the repeal.
- Lawyers for the states and the companies tried to persuade the three-judge panel to restore the net neutrality regime, set in 2015 during the Obama administration and repealed in December 2017 at the direction of a regulator appointed by President Donald Trump.
- Government lawyers, as well as big internet providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, argued to keep net neutrality repealed while Mozilla and some other companies think that the FCC wrongly classified the internet as an information service rather than a telecoms service.
- The politically charged issue has emerged from its origins as an engineering challenge to become an anti-monopoly rallying point and even a focus for “resistance” to the Trump administration.
- The judges are weighing whether the FCC had the authority to nix the 2015 rules and get out of the business of enforcing net neutrality.
THE COURT RULES
- The FCC’s appeal of net neutrality was weakened by a Federal Appeals Court which ruled that the commission could not preempt state laws like those in California
- This decision is not final and could be taken all the way to the Supreme Court of Appeals to reach a final verdict
- There are loopholes between broadband and “Lifeline Programs” that need to be addressed by the FCC which they haven’t been able to make much progress on
- The FCC is relying on a technicality to prove its case which is something that needs to be addressed and fixed at a higher court level right away
NET NEUTRALITY AND THE COVID-19 CRISIS
- The rise in internet traffic during Covid-19 was preventing people from accessing their school work, applying for unemployment, and health care information. The argument of Net Neutrality came into play where internet providers should put a halt on entertainment services during a pandemic instead of equal distribution.
- This pandemic made the world realize that more people than ever rely on the internet and should be free to choose the video conference system, education websites, and entertainment they want instead of letting someone else decide.
- More than 700 companies and organizations have signed the “Keep America Connected” pledge not to terminate internet service over pandemic related financial situations and make sure to allow free Wi-Fi services.
- Organizations and broadband providers like Comcast and AT&T reduced some of their capital expenditures in order to develop network upgrades years in advance following the net neutrality rules. This will help the world be prepared for another world event where everyone needs the internet.
- Businesses are relying on video communications as management and delivery platforms. This opens the door for innovation for creating tools that the world is finding very essential right now.
- Net neutrality and the pandemic made the world realize that we don’t need to subsidize internet services.
- During the pandemic, we started to realize that we need more broadband because there is a digital divide that is separating Americans from relief like unemployment and health services.
- The success for building a digital infrastructure is letting consumers vote with their dollars, federal policies that unleash innovative and competitive forces, and penalize anti-competitive conduct. However, some government regulations think that their roadmap for building a digital infrastructure works when it doesn’t.
- Biden wants Broadband companies to provide transparency on their pricing and be open to sharing that they are involving net neutrality
- Biden has put a large emphasis on making sure broadband is available to all Americans and has pledged over $100 Billion in spending on the project
- Net Neutrality supporters want a fifth Board member added to the FCC board as it currently has two democrats and two republicans serving making it very tough to institute new policies
- Net neutrality is important because we must determine who is going to police broadband and how they plan on doing so
- The most effective way to incorporate net neutrality laws is going to have to be through Congress since they have the ability to set federal standards and regulations
OVERALL SUMMARY OF ALL ARTICLES
Network neutrality is the notion that regardless of the source, all internet service providers must enable customers to have equal access to content and applications. Internet traffic must be treated on a first come first serve basis. Large internet companies amongst other big organizations are in favor of network neutrality because it prevents cable companies and telecommunications from billing them based on the amount consumed by the content they deliver via the internet. Companies that are opposed to network neutrality prefer to charge different proceeds dependent on the amount of bandwidth that is consumed. For example, companies like Amazon and Netflix are in favor of network neutrality because differentiated pricing would cause start-up companies with high-bandwidth consumption not to gain traction.
Net neutrality is a highly debatable topic because many believe that internet traffic should be treated indiscriminately. They argue that if the internet is controlled by the highest bidder, your access to content will become limited. Under Obama in 2015, the FCC approved net neutrality rules, deeming ISPs to be “utility providers” like gas and electric companies. It was reversed however, in 2017 when the FCC re-classified ISPs to be an “information service” and not a utility. It is now being discussed again under Joe Biden, who is in favor of net neutrality.
Opponents of net neutrality have argued that in times of high internet traffic, ISPs can prioritize access for those who really need it, like students, healthcare workers, first responders, etc., while those using the web for entertainment purposes would be suppressed. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, the internet is capable of handling unusually high traffic, regardless of purpose. All-in-all, net neutrality is something that should be important to all of us, as we rely on the internet now more than ever.
- In every debate, there are always 2 or more sides. Who is supportive of network neutrality and who is opposed to network neutrality? Who are the stakeholders and what arguments could each side present to support their stance?
- Do you think you’ve been (or can be) affected by the removal of net neutrality? What are the downstream effects of removing network neutrality? Explain.
- One framework for resolving the network neutrality issue that has been considered in the past and continues to be debated actively is the question of whether the internet should be treated as a public utility. Your thoughts and responses.