Net-neutrality fight encompassing internet - Everything you need to know

Net-neutrality is a rule or perspective that determines the internet service behaviour to regulate the websites. It dictates a principle that promotes equality for every site and app that runs on the internet. It mainly focuses on three principles which are necessary to be followed by every internet service provider. Those rules restrict blocking, speed throttling and getting money from websites in order to provide them faster speeds.

For instance, a service provider could not slow down the streaming speed of YouTube to get more traffic on his streaming channel. Also, it abides ISPs to refer third party companies who pay them for that purpose. Therefore, the other web pages with limited resources could face loss in such an unequal behaviour.

Current FCC rules implemented in Obama’s era

The rules implemented in 2015 were the ones which are now been under question by the new net-neutrality rules proposal from FCC’s chairman Ajit Pai. These existing rules classify ISPs as “common carriers” under Title II of the Communication Act.

However, attempts were made to restrict these rules back in 2015 through enforcement of Title I of the Communications Act which gives more authority to the ISPs. But due to a lawsuit from major ISPs, these rules were thrown out of court.

Yet, along with the three major guidelines, several smaller rules are written in the Title II classification for ISPs.

Stances for the proposal of new net-neutrality rules

The Federal Communication Commission earlier this year, on 18th May have initiated the process to revert the Obama’s era net-neutrality rules. A voting process was done which ended up on 2-1 along with party lines. The Republicans, Ajit Pai and Michael O'Reilly voted in favour of these proposed rules, however, Democrat Mignon Clyburn voted against it.

Pai argued that the existing rules could discourage ISPs in investing for their networks. According to him and other Republicans, the Title II regulations are severe and promote FCC strike down future abuses that aren’t explicitly covered by the official rules.

However, the Democrats, Consumer advocacy groups and most of the internet based firms are against such rules that could damage net-neutrality. According to them, network investment could not be harmed by Title II authority and only these rules are practicing actual net-neutrality. Yet, they believe that implementation of these rules could strengthen internet providers to play favourites openly.

Whereas, major ISPs such as AT&T, having the support for Pai’s proposal and Title I authority have also said that they wouldn’t be blocking or throttling the speed of any web page even if the rules are reversed. 

Evan Greer, campaign director at Fight for the Future said in an email: "AT&T is lying when they say they support net neutrality, while actively opposing it.”

"If they want to support the Title II protections that we have now, which prevent them from shaking down websites for extra fees as part of ‘paid prioritisation’ schemes, we’d be glad to have them as part of this protest. Until then, they’re just making noise to continue their campaign of misinformation."

Also, a part of senior director of strategy at Free Press, Timothy Karr email, reads:

"The unvarnished truth is that AT&T has never been a supporter of net neutrality, and will likely never become one.”

Internet turnout over the proposed net-neutrality rules

On Wednesday, July 12, the internet based companies and websites have observed an online protest day named as “Internet-Wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality.” Most of the websites including popular ones such as YouTube, NetFlix, Twitter, PornHub, and others have displayed ads and pop up notices to encourage users for comment.

However, more than 9 million people have already filed comments since Pai has issued new rule making notice. A huge part of votes was spurred by comedian John Oliver in the favour of current net neutrality rules, however, thousands of comments were due to website engagement. Some of the popular examples are;

·         Reddit on its homepage has displayed a slow-loading, pixilated logo with a pop-up notice that alerts the users about the risks the new net neutrality rules could pose. Through such display, they encourage users to comment in favour of existing rules.

·         Google and Twitter have initiated blog content for showing support in favour of current net neutrality rules and to spur users to comment in against the new rule proposal. However, Twitter has also initiated a “#netneutrality” hashtag trend.

·         A full page notice is been displayed by the Kickstarter’s homepage to inform users about the proposed rule set.

·          Netflix has displayed a loading logo with a disclaimer and link to a page from their advocacy group, the Internet Association.

·         Twitch has also displayed a simple banner at the top of their website. They have replaced their chat emojis with loading icons.

Yet, many other websites authorities and owners have criticised Pai’s proposal. For instance, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has supported current FCC rules through the post. Also, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO has commented in favour of present rules in a separate post. However, they expressed their willingness to work with the members of Congress to find out a solution.

What could you expect? 

The present events and protests encompassing internet world are not for the first time. Thousands of websites have protested in an internet slowdown” day in favour of net neutrality rules back in 2014. But the FCC administration that time was much more flexible and accepting than the present one.

 However, the FCC is currently accepting public comments on the net neutrality proposal “Restoring Internet Freedom” till August this year. And till now they have received more than a double amount of comment than the previous protests. After, this the FCC commissioner would construct a final draft and vote on it.

Whereas, the process is expected to take a couple of years or so. Even in the case of the rule being ordered by the commission could not be the end. The advocates of the existing net neutrality rules could challenge these new rules.

Yet, you could expect continuous hearing about the net neutrality rules in the coming months.

Peter Buttler, Infosecurity Expert and Journalist
Image source: Shutterstock/Toria

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