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How Net Neutrality Affects Internet Freedom


By Anna Shaw


On January 14th, 2014, the DC Circuit Court determined in Verizon Communications Inc. vs. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that the FCC has no right to enforce net neutrality laws due to the fact that the Internet is not classified as a “common carrier.” Recently the fire surrounding the issue has been blazing up again.


First of all, what exactly is net neutrality?  Net neutrality laws are the various regulations stating that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) cannot prioritize certain web traffic, so that one website or domain will load faster than others.  One of the things that makes the Internet so appealing is that everyone has a fair playing ground.  Anyone who decides to purchase a domain name has just as much bandwidth, or Internet speed, as bigger companies, like YouTube.  Under acting net neutrality laws, your Internet provider can’t limit broadband on either your end or the website’s.  However, without these laws, your provider could make your Internet much like cable TV, asking you to purchase different packages in order to have quicker access to certain websites.


Net neutrality advocates have been striving for the reclassification of the Internet as a common carrier instead of what it currently is: an information service.  A common carrier is, as defined by the United States, a public telecommunication facility.


According to Online MBA, an online business school, in 2005 the FCC issued an internet policy statement outlining four main principles of open internet:  the right to access lawful internet content of the consumer’s choice, to run lawful applications of their choice, to connect lawful devices of their choice, and to use the ISP of their choice.  Without classifying the internet as a common carrier, none of these policies would apply.


In an effort to make a profit, major cable companies are trying to infringe on these principles. They would be able to limit what websites and content people access, even if they paid for “full” access.  A hypothetical example of this would be if Verizon joined with Microsoft to slow all internet traffic going to Google but sped up traffic going to Bing, in an effort to redirect traffic so that it would benefit their companies.  ISPs could also limit which applications you run on your computer or cell phone, limit the number of devices you’re allowed to connect to your WiFi, and impose costs that would make it difficult for you to switch ISPs if you decided you weren’t satisfied with the one you currently have.


Without net neutrality laws, the internet would become two-tiered; it would separate into a “fast lane” and a “slow lane,” presumably only offering the fast lane— what we currently have as our only lane— to consumers who pay extra.

Overall, net neutrality affects everyone, especially businesses based on the internet which, nowadays, is almost all of them.

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