Network Neutrality: 10 Reasons You Should Care About It

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2014-01-17 Print this article Print

Much has been written, blogged and said about the federal appeals court's Jan. 14 decision that struck down the Federal Communications Commission's "network neutrality" policy, which was aimed at ensuring that Internet service providers (ISPs) don't prioritize customers' Web bandwidth or traffic volumes. The decision effectively allows service providers to manage Web traffic as they see fit. This means that Web service providers that generate big traffic volumes could be paying higher prices or face bandwidth restrictions. It's been said this might particularly impact companies such as Netflix or other video content providers who broadcast huge data streams. Although concern over network neutrality has been around for years, it's one of the least-understood aspects of the Internet industry. The term, tossed around in congressional hearings and on tech blogs, is hardly understood by average consumers, who naturally expect that they will have unfettered access to Web content at reasonable cost. But if the FCC doesn't find a way to legally sustain the network neutrality concept, Web users may find that they will be paying whatever the market will bear for Web content. And if ISPs attempt to increase the cost for service providers to access the Web, it's entirely possible those end users will get hit by those very same providers with higher access fees. This slide show covers what network neutrality is and why it matters, identifies the key players, and looks at why everyone has a vested interest in it.  

  • Network Neutrality: 10 Reasons You Should Care About It

    by Don Reisinger
    1 - Network Neutrality: 10 Reasons You Should Care About It
  • The FCC Is Against the Ruling

    The FCC stands at the center of the network neutrality fight. The government agency first initiated neutrality for Web connections a decade ago and has continually said access should be open and free of restrictions. In light of the ruling, the FCC now says that it wants to appeal.
    2 - The FCC Is Against the Ruling
  • Prioritization Is Possible

    Although the major ISPs are saying that the appeals court ruling won't change anything, the truth is that prioritization is a real possibility. So, ISPs might charge more for big-bandwidth sites or ratchet back those sites that aren't nearly as popular. The crux of network neutrality is this: Who will get special treatment and who will qualify for it?
    3 - Prioritization Is Possible
  • Network Neutrality's Fate Is Too Important to Be Left to the Courts

    The last thing anyone should want is for the fate of network neutrality to be decided in the federal courts. The appeals court stated that the FCC has the legislative authority to regulate the Internet. The FCC should use this authority to craft regulations that will stand up to court review.
    4 - Network Neutrality's Fate Is Too Important to Be Left to the Courts
  • Big Web Companies Will Prosper No Matter What

    There's a general belief in the industry that major Web companies, like Google, could actually prosper if network neutrality is struck down. There's a sense that Google, Facebook and others, being the service providers' best customers, won't have to deal with any bandwidth restrictions and can afford to pay any increased service charges in any event. Only smaller Web companies will suffer.
    5 - Big Web Companies Will Prosper No Matter What
  • Small Startups Could Be Hurt

    If network neutrality is killed, small companies and startups could find themselves at a competitive disadvantage. Internet service providers would have to offload the cost of major sites to smaller ones, effectively limiting the chances for small Web companies to grow into giants. Perhaps that's why so many in Silicon Valley are so upset with the recent ruling.
    6 - Small Startups Could Be Hurt
  • For Now, Internet Regulation Is on Hold

    After the 2008 financial collapse that rocked the world economy, Internet regulation and network neutrality became a hot-button issue. With the appeals court's decision, the question becomes whether there will be any regulation on Web access. Free market advocates say lack of regulation is a good thing and competitive forces ensure service providers deliver equal access at fair prices. But Internet access is a public utility that has become essential for private citizens as well as business interests. Without some regulations, some people and businesses could be harmed.
    7 - For Now, Internet Regulation Is on Hold
  • Civil Rights Advocates Are Concerned

    African-American organizations are concerned with the recent decision by the appeals court. In fact, Color of Change, an organization aimed at "strengthen[ing] Black America's political voice," issued a statement on the open Internet, saying that it could limit the African-American community's "ability to be heard," adding that "millions of Americans … count on the free and open Internet to go about the essentials of our daily lives." Sometimes, Web issues go beyond profits.
    8 - Civil Rights Advocates Are Concerned
  • Competition on the Web Could Suffer

    If service providers start throttling bandwidth or increasing bandwidth costs based on usage, some smaller companies could have trouble growing their traffic or paying the higher costs. If the ruling stands, it effectively paves the way for ISPs to charge companies for their bandwidth usage and could conceivably slow down connections to certain sites. This could reduce competition on the Internet because such a policy will favor the bigger, richer companies to the detriment of smaller ones.
    9 - Competition on the Web Could Suffer
  • The FCC Can Change the Rules

    Speaking to Re/code in an interview published on Jan. 15, law professor Susan Crawford, who has been studying network neutrality for years, said it's entirely possible that the FCC, in addition to appealing the ruling, could reclassify broadband services as "common carriage." By doing so, the FCC could conceivably have a workaround against the ruling and get the free and open Internet back on track. Whether it'll do that, though, remains to be seen.
    10 - The FCC Can Change the Rules
  • Another Political Mess

    So, why might the FCC balk at making any swift moves to overturn the ruling or modify its policy to resolve current legal objections? There is always politics. Many lawmakers—largely Republicans—have said that if the FCC goes too far in enforcing network neutrality, they would attempt to cut the agency's budget. Lawmakers against the FCC have argued that "federal bureaucrats" should not be able to decide how communication is conveyed over the Web. In other words, expect a political uproar over this one.
    11 - Another Political Mess

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