On Tuesday, the FCC, by a 3-2 vote, approved new rules for Internet providers to abide by to provide equal access to the Internet for all. The Commission argues that the new rules will keep Internet providers transparent and that an open web will stimulate innovation, competition, and free expression.
One of the rules explicitly stops broadband Internet providers from blocking access to any website. However, wireless providers are allowed to put some limits on access to certain applications. Al Franken, a supporter of complete net neutrality, argues that if the current proposal passes, companies like Verizon can block a Google Maps application, forcing the consumer to purchase Verizon’s own GPS mapping program.
One commissioner who voted against the ruling, Robert McDowell, argues that because the FCC is not part of Congress, it can’t make new laws. The ruling is generally regarded by Republicans as government intrusion into online business practices. They argue that the Internet provider market is doing just fine. Several lawsuits have been filed to weaken or completely remove the new rules.
Some supporters of net neutrality are not satisfied. They argue that the new rules are watered down, and that Internet providers will still have options of giving higher speed access to those who can afford to pay for it. Supporters of net neutrality want one Internet, so they oppose the exemptions that wireless providers will still have on certain issues.
A net-neutral Internet is a limitless internet, with no restrictions on what service providers can block. The Chinese government is an extreme case of a country without net neutrality; they block many sites from the country’s web. This government oppression of free speech is what net neutrality supporters point to as what cannot happen in the US.
Net neutrality, supporters argue, will protect the Internet consumer. With it implemented, ISPs won’t be able to purposely slow down the traffic of another ISP to garner more viewers. It would also prevent providers from creating several levels of Internet; a possible scenario is an ISP providing much of its bandwidth to its higher-paying customers, while allowing a small amount of bandwidth to the basic data plans.
Though many people are taking sides on the net neutrality issue, it is a very complicated issue that the average consumer may not know a lot about. While conservatives generally oppose net neutrality, liberals support it. For the casual Internet user, it is okay to feel, well, neutral about all this.
Siegel, Robert. December 21, 2010. “How Will Net Neutrality Rules Affect Consumers?” Retrieved December 22, 2010 from NPR: http://www.npr.org/2010/12/21/132237824/How-Will-Net-Neutrality-Rules-Affect-Consumers
Stelter, Brian. December 20, 2010. “F.C.C Is Set to Regulate Net Access”. Retrieved December 22, 2010 from the NY Times:http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/21/business/media/21fcc.html?_r=1&ref=netneutrality
Gross, Doug. December 21, 2010. “FCC approves controversial ‘net neutrality’ rules”. Retrieved December 22, 2010 from CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/web/12/21/fcc.net.neutrality/index.html?hpt=Sbin