Ever since a federal appeals court threw out federal rules requiring that broadband providers treat all Internet traffic equally, there has been much talk about the future of net neutrality.
So, what exactly is “net neutrality?”
Basically, it is the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and governments cannot discriminate or charge different rates by user, platform, content or type of attached equipment. In principle, net neutrality means that ISPs, like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T, could not charge a premium for access to faster data throughput to companies or individuals. But, that all changed with the January appeals court ruling.
You may be asking then, why shouldn’t companies and individuals be paying more for faster broadband service? Therein lies the argument; and it tends to be an argument that encompasses price and access. Proponents of net neutrality argue that if ISPs are allowed to charge different rates for different content, applications and the like, then large established companies will have a distinct advantage over smaller content providers and start-ups. The larger companies will have access to a larger broadband pipeline that will be less likely to get clogged when usage is high.
In this scenario, proponents of net neutrality see a potential tiered system developing in which the “haves” that can afford to pay more, will have access to a larger broadband pipeline than those who cannot afford to pay. Basically, the argument is that if net neutrality is eliminated, then the major ISPs will have the power to block content, degrade network performance, manipulate prices and service, and make things extremely difficult for competitors who may provide the same services as they do. In other words, they would be able to decide what is seen and how fast.
In the end, everybody would pay more for service and would be at the mercy of a dwindling number of mega-ISPs.
Critics of net neutrality argue that since the rise of the commercial Internet the concept has been a myth. They point out that people already pay more for different levels of Internet service — the more you pay, the faster your service.
The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) recently made some proposals to address this issue. The rule changes would allow Internet providers to charge other companies for priority, high-speed, access to their users. The commission also left open the door for some service providers to be classified as “common carriers” that could be regulated much the same as telecommunication companies.
Needless to say, neither side was completely pleased with the proposed changes. All sides in the debate have the next four months to comment on the proposal.
SLS Consulting will be following this battle as it continues. How will it affect the future of the Internet and how you conduct business online? Know that whatever the final decision, we will work tirelessly to see that your online solution makes the best sense for you and your company.