Last fall, we were pleased to report that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had passed new regulations that prevented Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from sharing the private data of consumers unless the consumer gave express consent to disclose search histories and location data. The regulations also included a provision for protecting consumers from hackers. That win for privacy didn’t last.
According to WIRED, the FCC has suspended the data security rule (the portion that required ISPs to protect customers’ data from hacking and security breaches) before it ever took effect. The reason? The commission is concerned that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) may…
Net neutrality is back in the news, as Ajit Pai—a noted net neutrality opponent—takes the reins of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Here’s a brief explanation of what net neutrality is, and what the debate over it is all about.
1. IT’S NOT A LAW; IT’S A PRINCIPLE
Net neutrality is a principle in the same way that “freedom of speech” is. We have laws that enforce net neutrality (as we do for freedom of speech), but it’s important to understand that it is a concept rather than a specific law.
2. IT’S ABOUT REGULATING ACCESS TO THE INTERNET
Fundamentally, net neutrality is the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should not be allowed to prioritize one kind of data traffic over another. This also means they cannot block services purely for business reasons.
To give a simple example, let’s say your ISP also sells cable TV service. That ISP might want to slow down your internet access to competing online TV services (or make you pay extra if you want smooth access to them). Net neutrality means that the ISP can’t limit your access to online services. Specifically, it means the FCC, which regulates the ISPs, can write rules to prevent ISPs from preferring certain services—and the FCC did just that in 2015.
Proponents often talk about net neutrality as a “level playing field” for online services to compete. This leaves ISPs in a position where they are providing a commodity service—access to the internet under specific FCC regulations—and that is not always a lucrative business to be in.
3. INTERNET PROVIDERS GENERALLY OPPOSE NET NEUTRALITY