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The internet may be about to change for millions of Americans.
The Trump administration are planning to roll back another Obama-era policy,
the protection of net neutrality.
The FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, will make a decision that could affect everything
from internet speeds, to overall access, to the amount it costs to go online.
Net neutrality is the idea that Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, should treat all internet traffic the same,
giving every consumer equal access to all content online.
That means large corporations, like Verizon or Comcast, cannot limit or manipulate
your online activity in order to favor their own business interests.
Net neutrality also aims to protect smaller companies from being strangled by larger companies.
Its advocates argue it ensures the internet remains a place for innovation,
which is why it's helped produce startup, after startup, after startup.
Since 2002, the FCC has classified broadband internet as an information service,
meaning cable providers couldn't be forced to share their infrastructure with competitors.
It wasn't until 2010 that the FCC adopted its Open Internet Order,
the first time net neutrality rules became official regulation.
However, three years later, Verizon successfully sued the FCC
arguing that if broadband providers were classified as just an information service,
it meant the FCC didn't have enough authority to enforce these rules.
Free and open access to the internet.
But in 2015, instead of backing down, the FCC, under Obama-appointed chairman Tom Wheeler,
reclassified ISPs as common carriers, essentially turning them into a public utility.
That gave the FCC much stronger oversight and the authority it needed to enforce net neutrality.
So why did the FCC take such strong action?
Well, as President Obama explained a year earlier,
'No service should be stuck in a slow lane because it doesn't pay a fee.'
Let's borrow President Obama's analogy for a moment.
Imagine the World Wide Web as a highway.
Under current FCC rules the majority of internet traffic moves at the same speed.
Whether you're streaming a TV series from Netflix or a smaller streaming service such as Mubi,
your ISP has to provide the same internet speed for both websites.
But without net neutrality, according to its supporters, Internet Service Providers like
AT&T could divide the internet they provide into multiple lanes, all going at different speeds.
To be in the fastest lane, websites would have to pay an additional fee.
This would force established sites such as Amazon, Facebook and Spotify
to pay up to stay ahead of the competition,
while smaller sites and startups could be priced out of the fastest lanes.
Now though, the Trump administration and the GOP have come out against net neutrality.
But why?
Some of net neutrality proponents say it's another attempt to reverse an Obama policy
or possibly to win the support of donors for the 2020 election campaign.
The top four internet service providers in the U.S., Verizon, AT&T, Charter and Comcast,
have spent tens of millions lobbying Congress.
But critics of net neutrality believe it can be counterproductive.
High profile Republicans such as Ted Cruz and Rand Paul argue that excessive regulation
of the internet discourages innovation and competition amongst ISPs.
Nineteen small cable providers signed a letter to the FCC asking to end net neutrality,
saying that it was killing their businesses.
Another argument is that net neutrality rules make networks less profitable,
holding back investment in internet infrastructure.
For example, Verizon and Google have built new fiber optic networks
that are 50 times faster than ordinary networks.
But they can cost billions of dollars to build, so large parts of the country haven't received them yet.
Internet users may benefit from certain applications such as voice calling and online games,
which are particularly sensitive to delays in delivering data,
being given priority by companies who pay a premium.
The man leading the fight against net neutrality is the new Trump-appointed chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai.
We want to give more consumers better, faster, cheaper internet
and getting rid of these heavy-handed economic regulations,
inspired in the Great Depression, is the way to do it.
Pai, who is a former lawyer for Verizon, has predicted that net neutrality's days are numbered.
He believes that Internet Service Providers should not have to be classified as a public utility
but instead could voluntarily agree to not obstruct or slow consumer access to web content.
At the same time, Republicans in Congress are currently working on legislation
to try and reverse some of the rules.
A recent poll found 52% of registered voters support net neutrality regulations,
but that's actually an eight point decline in support from a few months earlier.
But what's happening in the U.S. is not without precedent.
For net neutrality advocates Portugal provides an example of how without net neutrality
ISPs can steer users to favored websites and services, including their own.
Even countries with supposed net neutrality have created arrangements,
which allow national regulators more flexibility.
These regulators can open loopholes permitting 'zero-rating'
through which ISPs can exclude certain services and sites from data caps.
In the U.K., the ISP Vodafone, offers several passes for an additional cost,
which allow unlimited video and music streaming, as well as social media use.
But only some social media apps are included.
For instance, in this social media pass you've only got Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.
But what about Snapchat, Tumblr, Reddit, Flickr and many more?
Back in the U.S., certain sites, including Netflix, have come out in support of net neutrality.
Some analysts believe that big content companies do not want to be forced into a bidding war,
but will run the risk of having their speeds reduced and access blocked
if they refuse to pay these additional costs to ISPs.
And if costs do increase then consumers may be the ones to foot the bill,
with wealthier users able to access the fastest speeds.
The Open Internet may no longer be a level playing field
for the many content creators and internet users around the world.
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What is net neutrality? | CNBC Explains

55 Folder Collection
robert published on December 18, 2018
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