Why net neu­tral­ity is such a ma­jor is­sue, es­pe­cially for mil­len­ni­als

The Buffalo News - - CONTINUED FROM THE COVER - – Jerry Zrem­ski

What is net neu­tral­ity? It is the con­cept that in­ter­net ser­vice providers should treat all con­tent the same – that they should not block par­tic­u­lar web­sites or struc­ture their rates to fa­vor one kind of con­tent over an­other. Also called “the open in­ter­net,” this vi­sion of the web would pre­vent Com­cast from of­fer­ing a cheap in­ter­net pack­age with con­tent from NBC – which Com­cast owns – but no con­tent from CBS, ABC or Fox. adopted a set of rules aimed at guar­an­tee­ing net neu­tral­ity in Fe­bru­ary 2015. Un­der the new rules, in­ter­net ser­vice providers found them­selves reg­u­lated like pub­lic util­i­ties. In prac­ti­cal terms, the new rules barred them from fa­vor­ing cer­tain web­sites over oth­ers. They couldn’t en­gage in “paid pri­or­i­ti­za­tion,” where web­sites pay In­ter­net Ser­vice Providers, so that con­sumers will be able to ac­cess their sites at higher speeds. The ISPs also couldn’t deliver their own con­tent at higher speeds than that of other web­sites.

Why is net neu­tral­ity end­ing? Be­cause Don­ald Trump won the pres­i­dency and there­fore the right to make ap­point­ments to the FCC, the fed­eral agency that over­sees the in­ter­net. Now led by Repub­li­cans, the FCC voted in De­cem­ber to with­draw the Oba­maera net neu­tral­ity rules and re­turn to the looser reg­u­la­tory struc­ture that gov­erned in­ter­net ser­vice from the 1990s through 2014. Repub­li­cans ar­gue that the Obama-era rules sad­dled the ISPs with a costly reg­u­la­tory bur­den that stopped them from ex­pand­ing in­ter­net ser­vice.

Net neu­tral­ity sup­port­ers fear a new era where the ISPs can con­trol what peo­ple see on the in­ter­net and find ever more cre­ative ways to pay more for it. But sup­port­ers of a looser reg­u­la­tory struc­ture say none of those things have hap­pened yet and are un­likely to hap­pen so long as there’s com­pe­ti­tion for in­ter­net ser­vice – which, they say, will in­crease with less reg­u­la­tion.

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