Net Neutrality is a nickname for a set of rules designed to govern your access to the Internet. In the next three minutes I’m going to prove to you why Net Neutrality is important and give you enough facts to argue your own case for or against it.
On February 23, 2021, a federal judge ordered that California had the right to enforce a Net Neutrality law it passed in 2018. (You can research the drama that led up to this ruling in your free time.) At this writing the California Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018 (aka “SB-822”) is law. Here’s what you need to know.
SB-822 builds on the 2015 FCC Net Neutrality framework. It contains the following:
Blocking: Broadband providers may not block access to lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
Throttling: Broadband providers may not deliberately target some lawful Internet traffic to be delivered to users more slowly than other traffic.
Network Management Practices: SB-822 requires carriers to be transparent about “network management practices, performance, and commercial terms.” This shuts down a loophole in the FCC’s 2015 rules which stated that traffic shaping and bit throttling were “subject to reasonable network management,” which basically meant ISPs could throttle traffic if they thought they had to.
Paid Prioritization: Broadband providers may not favor some Internet traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind. Internet service providers are also banned from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates.
Zero-rating: Carriers may not exempt certain services from counting against users’ data caps. For example, AT&T may not give you unlimited access to HBO Max because you get your broadband from AT&T but put a data cap on or slow down your access to Netflix. Additionally, carriers may not charge for zero-rating.
Edge Providers: SB-822 regulates a wide variety of “interconnection” deals between network operators and content providers. This is a hotly debated topic, as many of these types of deals are already in place.
Forcing You to Use Carrier-supplied Equipment: Carriers are prohibited from forcing consumers to purchase or rent equipment. Said differently, you are free to get your own modems, switches, and routers as long as they comply with the carrier’s specifications.
Arguments For Net Neutrality
How important is your access to the Internet? How much does it cost? How much should it cost? Does your connection slow down without notice? Is your data capped? If you cut the cord, will your data bill go through the roof? Will your online video viewing exceed your data cap? Do you have to rent equipment from your carrier even though you can purchase more suitable gear at a lower cost from others? Do your competitors have an edge because they’ve made a special deal with a carrier? The responses to all of these questions (and more) are just some of the reasons pro Net Neutrality.
Arguments Against Net Neutrality
Why wouldn’t you want Net Neutrality regulations? Some say it will stifle investment in network innovation. Others say the restrictions are unreasonable and will diminish the industry’s ability to provide the wide range of broadband services we currently enjoy. The carriers have argued that SB-822 impedes business flexibility. They say that what the law considers “unreasonable internet conduct in California will be subject to interpretation by multiple jurisdictions and private parties leading to litigation, delay and expense.” And the rules focused on edge providers are said to be problematic because Big Tech (Amazon, Netflix, Google, Facebook, etc.) has negotiated deals in place that the law now prohibits.
You Need to Get Involved
Does California’s SB-822 pave the way for 50 states to all do their own thing? It wouldn’t be the worst outcome – after all, people who live in New York State don’t purchase their broadband access from Vermont. Should Congress pass federal legislation? Some think that a federal law would be too watered down (think lobbyists) to accomplish its goals. With the basic principles and components of the legislation under your belt and a rudimentary overview of the pros and cons as argued, the big question is, what do you think?
What are your thoughts on net neutrality?
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