Net Neutrality has become a hot button topic for the private sector and government alike lately. Companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Google are taking a stand against changing net neutrality laws. We recently looked at the impact of repealing the Open Internet Order (OIO) for libraries, but this issue extends into almost every facet of life in the 21st century.
When millions of people access the internet and use programs like Netflix, there is only so much power to keep information moving at the same speed. This means that even when you're looking up a train schedule, that data is moving through the same networks as a cat video the person next to you is watching. This brings us to one of the main issues anti-net neutrality groups have with the OIO: if Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are spending money to maintain and innovate their systems, then companies should chip in to take advantage of these improvements. If consumers and website owners want to continue to see rising internet speeds, ISPs argue that the companies with the biggest bandwidth usage should be charged to subsidise the total cost of network innovation.
If the goal of ISPs is to make the internet better, then why are so many people taking a stand against dissolving the OIO?
In a perfect world both ISPs and the companies that rely on the internet would split costs fairly, and work together to optimize the internet. However it’s hard to imagine this digital utopia in a landscape where the most profitable companies get all the advantages and smaller entities and nonprofits are left behind.
Unfortunately, there are flaws to the 2015 OIO that complicate this debate. The wording of the current laws is too hazy to be effective. The definition of net neutrality itself is no longer applicable. Just recently the US Court of Appeals unintentionally created a loophole by not holding edited services to the same net neutrality standards as ISPs. The issue with this is as ISPs start to create their own content (like in the case of AT&T, which owns DirecTV) they are able to fit the title of edited services (meaning that if an ISP tells its customers it filters content, that content isn’t subject to the OIO).
Whether or not the FCC repeals the OIO, the fight for a better internet is not over. If all we do now is enshrine the OIO, ISP’s will still be able to exploit loopholes to control our information and advantage themselves and larger corporations. Members of congress have only just begun to form their opinions and make comments about net neutrality, and so it is essential that we reach out to them and help them understand the issue.