On April 23, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal of net neutrality took effect in the United States. This repeal was led by a Republican-majority FCC to do away with former President Obama’s net neutrality rules from 2015, which were intended to keep all web traffic the same and make it fair for everyone. With this repeal, internet service providers (ISPs) will no longer be prevented from slowing down or blocking content on the internet.
With this in mind, what exactly is Net Neutrality and why is it important to know?
According to an article on PolitiFact, net neutrality is a set of rules designed to make ISPs treat all web traffic the same, no matter the source. This means that an ISP cannot favor one company over another and web traffic must stay the same. It also means that these companies cannot prevent people from entering a site to block out competitors. The net neutrality laws state that all online content should be treated equally and be accessible for anyone to use.
So the end of net neutrality is a controversial issue today that is argued from both sides. Some support it, saying that broadband providers can invest in infrastructure while some argue that the end of net neutrality will make the internet unfair for everyone to use.
But one question remains: Does it affect our school system?
One of the concerns regarding this change is that the companies that are charged more by their providers may pass on those charges to schools. Sean Cavanagh told Market Brief, “Academic institutions need to have a right to fair and high speeds of information for instruction, research, and classroom management.”
Allen Community College’s information technology specialist, Doug Dunlap, believes that the end of net neutrality will not have a big effect for consumers who are using the internet.
“As long as the internet service providers like Verizon are making their policies known in a contract when consumers are deciding on a service, then you can be a more informed consumer,” Dunlap said.
Dunlap went on to say that the new rules related to net neutrality will largely depend on what consumers do on the internet, whether that be browsing Google, looking at social media or watching videos.
“If you are just using basic services on the internet, it will probably not impact you at all,” Dunlap said. “It is the paid services where there is competition between different sites to have better services. That is where there could be some impact.”
Another effect net neutrality could have on consumers is choosing what ISP will work best for them. For example, if there is a company that is blocking content one enjoys or needs, the consumer can always choose a different one. However, the problem comes when someone lives in a small town and there is only one provider. If he or she is not happy with the service and there is only one player around, the consumer doesn’t have as many options.
So the end of net neutrality has its flaws and disadvantages for consumers but also has benefits to businesses and service providers. For the most part, our experience of surfing the internet will not change. Only time will tell how these new rules regarding how the internet is used by consumers will change for better or for worse.