“There are no gatekeepers deciding which sites you get to access. There are no toll roads on the information superhighway.”—President Barack Obama
A new internet is coming
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma— “There are no gatekeepers deciding which sites you get to access. There are no toll roads on the information superhighway,” President Barack Obama said in 2014 promoting the protection of net neutrality.
The days of the open internet he was describing may soon be coming to an end.
April 23 started the clock ticking for the Obama-era net neutrality regulations. Following a 60-day procedural process, the 2015 rules will be no more, meaning that by summer’s end the internet might be a little different than what you are used to.
So what is net neutrality?
Net neutrality is the basic precept that everything (legal) on the internet is viewed and treated equally by internet service providers.
The regulations enacted under Obama were meant as safeguards against ISP’s becoming the internet’s “gatekeepers” and in so doing, acted as a form of consumer protection.
The rules prevented ISP’s like AT&T, for example, from favoring their own content over the content of their competitors by blocking or slowing down (throttling) the traffic to certain sites and/or charging customers extra fees for access to those sites.
To illustrate this practice, take the streaming services Hulu and Netflix as examples. Because AT&T is a partial owner of Hulu it has an incentive to slow Netflix traffic or simply begin adding a “Netflix fee” to any user accessing that site, giving Hulu an advantage over the competition.
Neutrality advocates have even posed the possibility of a gradual change to a tiered internet system, modeled like cable company packages.
Proponents in favor of deregulation, like FCC Chairman Ajit Pai say that the imposed regulations have cost billions of dollars in investment and consequently stifled innovation and stagnated growth in the industry.
Another viewpoint in favor of the repeal addresses the disproportional expense between low and high data consumers. Deregulation would allow for the creation of “fast lanes,” which could bring down costs for those users not streaming media.
However deregulation plays out remains to be seen, but one thing is certain, change is coming.