What does net neutrality mean?
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The term “net neutrality” has been circulating widely since Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai introduced his proposal to repeal laws ensuring equal access to the internet. These laws were put in place by the Obama administration and prevent internet service providers from charging extra for services or slowing down websites.
Net neutrality is defined as the idea that internet service providers must treat all internet data as the same regardless of its kind, source, or destination. Essentially, this means that internet providers such as Verizon and Comcast cannot prevent users from visiting certain apps or websites or cause them to load at slower speeds.
Discussion about net neutrality is nothing new. In 2007, the ISP Comcast was accused by subscribers of severely slowing down internet traffic that was using the file-sharing protocol known as BitTorrent. The Federal Communications Commission opened an investigation on Comcast. Comcast appealed to the Supreme Court, who ruled that the FCC did not have the authority to issue a cease-and-desist order.
If Pai’s proposal goes through, all internet users could potentially have to pay extra fees to use websites or streaming services such as Netflix. It could also spell trouble for small businesses, as companies would be able to pay internet providers to ensure their websites run faster than their competitors.
However, the reversal of net neutrality would not automatically result in any of these things. It would just mean that internet providers have the ability to block or slow down certain sites and charge extra fees without regulation from the government.
Raised over a decade ago, the question of how much the government should regulate broadband internet remains fraught with disagreement today as the FCC prepares to vote to replace current net neutrality laws on Dec. 14.