Policy around Internet Service Providers (ISPs) has been in the public eye recently with the recent Internet Day of Protest in support of Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is the position that ISPs have to treat all internet traffic the same regardless of the traffic. This is similar to how we expect the power company to treat “electrical traffic” (It would seem outrageous if the power company charged different rates for the electricity used by a TV opposed to electricity used by a refrigerator).
Net Neutrality is crucial to a healthy internet. It guarantees startups and smaller businesses equal opportunity compared to larger corporations with money to spend on “fast lanes.” Net Neutrality also prevents companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T from having too much power in our lives. For example, an ISP could throttle access to Netflix or similar service while providing a fast lane to their own Netflix competitor, giving them an unfair advantage.
Opponents of Net Neutrality frame it as the FCC overstepping its reach. Ajit Pai, the chairman of the FCC, has repeatedly stated that the concerns raised by Net Neutrality supporters are “hypothetical” and nothing more. This is blatantly wrong. This great reddit post gives numerous examples of ISPs interfering with services to benefit their business model.
Normally, if a company was engaging in these practices, we as consumers would be able to switch to a competitor. The pressure from the free market serves to keep these companies in check. However, many Americans have no choice if they want high speed internet. Some, including people from my home in Southeastern Kentucky, have no choice.
The infrastructure required in order to be an ISP presents a massive upfront cost to new companies. This gives ISPs “natural monopolies” in the areas they service. ISPs in many areas therefore do not have to worry about competitor pressure. This is dangerous, and ISPs will repeat the same behaviors they have in the past if the FCC does not step in in order to protect consumer interests.
For many Americans, government regulation has a bad connotation to it. While there are certainly times where regulation has impeded innovation and led to less jobs, there are countless things that we take for granted as citizens. Vehicles are infinitely safer due to government regulations. Air pollution in and near major US cities has declined significantly due to regulations. Also, we can thank regulations for power companies not being able to charge as much as they want given their “natural monopoly.”
The internet is a utility, and it needs to be regulated like one. We cannot allow The FCC must uphold Title II with respect to the internet. We cannot allow ISPs the power to control the content we see. They have enough power as it is. Gutting the FCC’s ability to enforce Net Neutrality under the guise of removing regulations is wrong and not in our best interests. I encourage everyone in the US to contact their representatives to voice your support for Title II and Net Neutrality.