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Net Neutrality is Crucial to an Open and Fair Internet

Net Neutrality is Crucial to an Open and Fair Internet

Net neutrality has made a comeback in recent years, and while progress has been made, progress has also been pulled back. However, a successful vote on April 25 restored net neutrality to its former state, so we’re here to review what it looks like today and what the debate was about.

The Equality of All Internet Traffic

As a principle, net neutrality dictates that anyone trying to access a website that shares content has the same level of service across the board, regardless of the Internet service provider. In plain human English, net neutrality forbids ISPs from letting certain websites pay them money to make accessing their content faster. In other words, businesses can’t pay a provider to make their website load faster than their competitors’.

One way you might see this in action is through streaming services. Thanks to net neutrality, a service provider like Netflix cannot pay a specific popular ISP, like Spectrum, to speed up their service or slow down others. On the other side of this explanation, ISPs cannot limit users based on where they live, who they vote for, how much their salary is, and their race. This ensures that all services are reliable, equitable, secure, and affordable. Sounds pretty great, right?

The United States Federal Communications Commission established a rule in 2015 that states that ISPs cannot vary their traffic speeds based on visited websites, thus barring websites from paying ISPs to deliver faster content. These rules were implemented, then shut down two years later, and the 3-2 ruling on April 25th of this year restored these protections.

Net Neutrality Affects More Than Just Internet Speed

Net neutrality is all about equity of access across the Internet, and as such, a couple of factors were at play here: the user and the content provider. To zoom out and apply this concept more broadly, we can consider your business’ audience and website.

If net neutrality were to disappear completely, an ISP could potentially charge a user and content provider for specific types of content in addition to the typical service charge. ISPs could argue that their resources are not being utilized equally without these charges. Since a lot of content comes from outside their network, ISPs feel they have to absorb a significant cost for this content without benefiting from it.

You can also look at it from a user’s perspective. The user pays for resources that they can then use as they wish. If they use up their allotment, there is no more for them, and if they don’t use it all, they don’t get a refund.

Some ISPs provide content, too. Some argue that this would result in discounts for users who pay more attention to ISP-related entertainment. On the other hand, advocates for net neutrality will point out that most US places only have one viable option for an ISP. Net neutrality keeps these ISPs in check.

Furthermore, small companies already have a hard enough time competing against large corporations, and net neutrality is able to level the playing field in at least some capacity. Net neutrality will at least keep your competition from paying ISPs for an unfair advantage.

Fortunately, We Still Have Net Neutrality

The open Internet has been protected with the FCC's vote, but it is important to consider these potential impacts as the balance of power changes in the future. The idea of the open Internet is too important to give up, especially as we become more and more technologically reliant.

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