Why Net Neutrality is Important

Photo (cc) by Sinistra Ecologia Libertà

On Thursday, after a long-running and heated debate, the Federal Communications Commission passed a measure to ensure that websites have equal access to Internet capacity under new rules known as “net neutrality.”

This landmark move by the government agency, though there are still some uncertainties about final implementation of the rules, was the result of a 3-to-2 vote, split along party lines. It essentially says that network owners must allow access without partiality to users.

That might sound technical, but its implications are enormous. Here’s an explanation of what that ruling means, and why it matters.

What is net neutrality?

If you’re a huge Internet service provider, such as Comcast, AT&T or Verizon, you’re a “gatekeeper” because before any Internet traffic reaches your subscribers, it has to first travel through your network. And because you control the network, it’s tempting to slow down — even block — the content of your competitors, or make extra money by collecting a fee from content providers willing to pay for faster downloads.

In other words, even though you’re already charging your customers for access to the Internet, if the content they want to see doesn’t make you money, you’d like the option of making it harder for them to see it. For example, if you’re Comcast, you might make it faster to stream your pay-per-view movies rather than those of your competitors, such as Netflix.

While some might argue that Netflix should pay more because its service hogs Internet bandwidth, the problem is that giving free reign to the gatekeepers could ultimately change everything. For example, suppose Comcast came to Money Talks News and said that for a little extra money, our site would be optimized for their customers. Refuse to pay, however, and they could throttle (slow down) our site on their network, or even make it impossible for their subscribers to see us. Agree to pay it, and Verizon could conceivably block their subscribers from this site, because we would be working with one of their competitors.

While this example is admittedly a bit far-fetched, it illustrates the potential for problems and abuse.

Tug of war over the issue

That’s the essence of net neutrality. The companies that own Internet infrastructure want to be able to decide how fast different types of traffic travels through their networks. On the other side of the issue, consumer advocates and content providers (including Money Talks News) say the net should be “neutral,” meaning gatekeepers shouldn’t be allowed to favor certain types of content over others.

The FCC has been studying the issue off and on since 2005, and in 2010, it issued a draft order that required broadband providers (such as Comcast and AT&T) to let subscribers see all legal online content at the same speed, even if that content competes with their own. (The rules were seen as a triumph by some neutrality advocates but insufficient by others because they applied to wired networks only — think cable companies — as opposed to wireless networks.)

In any case, a Court of Appeals challenge by opponents shot down the FCC rules early last year.

That meant that service providers such as Verizon, Comcast and AT&T would indeed have the ability to block or slow competing content, or charge content creators more to move it through their networks. So, for example, a gatekeeper could charge Netflix more, and Netflix could charge you more.

In this round, the FCC invoked its strongest regulatory option, called Title II, to re-establish its authority to maintain neutrality of the Internet, much as government agencies maintain open access to public utilities. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler described the proposed rules this way in an op-ed published in Wired.

Using this authority, I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open Internet protections ever proposed by the FCC. These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services. I propose to fully apply — for the first time ever — those bright-line rules to mobile broadband. My proposal assures the rights of Internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission.

The FCC vote Thursday affirmed this move, narrowly, in the Democrat-led commission.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise
America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise

Have you heard of this appliance manufacturer?

8 Things I Always Buy at Target
8 Things I Always Buy at Target

I grew up shopping at the original Target store and am a lifelong fan. Here are my favorite purchases.

These 12 Reusable Products Save You Money Over and Over
These 12 Reusable Products Save You Money Over and Over

Buy reusable versions of these household items, and you won’t have to spend another dime on them for years.

3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2020
3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2020

Still married to your cable company? Hold on to your wallet!

These 13 States Tax Social Security Income
These 13 States Tax Social Security Income

Uncle Sam is not the only one looking for a piece of your retirement income. Is your state on this list?

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

Seniors With COVID-19 May Display This Unusual Symptom
Seniors With COVID-19 May Display This Unusual Symptom

Largely asymptomatic seniors may experience a symptom not commonly associated with the coronavirus.

Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?
Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?

Understanding survivors benefits rules is the key to getting the most from your benefit.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

18 Early Black Friday Deals on Amazon Today
18 Early Black Friday Deals on Amazon Today

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation
These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation

Two types of vehicles are especially likely to see steep plunges in value.

Never Buy These 10 Things With Your Credit Card
Never Buy These 10 Things With Your Credit Card

Credit cards offer many conveniences and protections, but sometimes it’s simply smarter to keep the plastic tucked away.

13 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s
10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s

From snacks to sweets to side dishes, stock your cart with these time-tested favorites on your next TJ’s run.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

There are easy high-paying majors available in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required. We’re here to help you find easy degrees that pay well.

8 Surprising Household Items You Can Sell for Fast Cash
8 Surprising Household Items You Can Sell for Fast Cash

Sometimes, the humblest household items are worth the most money.

Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early
Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early

Like the idea of financial independence? Part of the FIRE equation is cutting costs.

5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021
5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021

These adjustments will affect both workers and retirees in the new year.

Stop Buying These 19 Things Online
Stop Buying These 19 Things Online

The internet has changed how we shop. But for some things, you’re still better off buying the old-fashioned way.

15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It
15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It

Discover some must-have products on Amazon that you didn’t even know you were missing.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing emergency food supply. Is your pantry well-prepared for emergencies? Knowing what to stock up on for emergencies can be a difficult task and we’re here to help.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.