Net Neutrality Had a Tough 2017…

A term coined by Professor Tim Wu in 2003, net neutrality has been widely discussed the past few months. But, in all honesty, how many of us truly understand everything that has happened with it? Here is as brief and simple of an explanation as possible.

M. Ende '19

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Also known as open internet, net neutrality is the principle that all internet service providers, or ISPs, must treat all internet content equally and must not The discriminate by charging certain websites more than others.

Well, this rather uncontroversial concept was generally only established in February 2015 in the Open Internet Order under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), called upon by President Obama, voted to categorize the internet used by consumers as a public utility. To clarify what this signified, note that other public utilities provide phone service, electricity, or natural gas, so now think of the internet like those essential services. Ultimately, this order introduced the aforementioned policies forbidding the interference of preference by ISPs.

Got it so far?

The first major threat to net neutrality of 2017

Originally nominated to the FCC by President Obama in 2011 and named chairman by President Trump in 2017, Ajit Pai never approved the Open Internet Order of 2015, and in April 2017 he proposed his own plan to roll back the net neutrality rules—a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) he titled “Restoring Internet Freedom,” by the way—which the FCC voted to implement the next month. However, a NPRM requires time for public comment, after which the FCC organizes a final vote. Consequently, protesters bombarded the FCC with online comments and organized on July 12, 2017, to create the largest online protest in history.

The second threat

On November 21, Pai announced his plans to repeal net neutrality once and for all.

Over the coming weeks social media platforms exploded, with Twitter feeds nationwide overcome by tens of thousands of #NetNeutrality-filled Tweets, and major companies stepped out for the first time opposing the FCC’s attempts to repeal open internet policies.

The final decision

On December 14, 2017, a 3-2 vote by the FCC, along party lines, approved the repeal of net neutrality, or the reversal of the regulations set in Title II.

Do you think the FCC made the right decision by repealing net neutrality?

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What’s next?

First, once the rules become official (which is expected to be soon), several organizations and politicians are planning to file lawsuits, so those will launch a long process to follow, but, really, the following stages will be complex, and any major impact will probably not appear for a few months.

To ensure that you know everything going on, read up with the plethora of available articles—from reliable sources!—that were posted following the vote and check in on all of the daily updates since. This New York Times piece, for one, answers many of the questions you likely first reacted with and debunks some of the lies you may have read on Twitter.

And, remember, that is the most vital part of handling this news, regardless of which side you were on: don’t instantly trust that girl with 54,000 followers who Tweeted that, without net neutrality, each movie you watch on Netflix will cost you $10. Do your own research, form your own opinions, and influence others to do the same!

Truthfully, net neutrality’s role in politics has fluctuated for longer than it has even been described by the term “net neutrality”; it basically hasn’t been left alone since the internet came to be. So there is still a chance that, with a different president or dominant party or FCC chairman, the rules will be altered yet again.

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