Net neutrality bill generates discussion

Stephanie Namkoong, Features Editor

Net neutrality is the principle promising equality on the internet for all customers and prevention of discrimination or unequal charge for internet use. Although the issue had been lobbied for and against since the 1990s, it wasn’t until Feb. 26 that the net neutrality bill was voted in favor of, and passed, in Congress.

“I support it because I believe that it is important to protect the free speech promised in the First Amendment,” Sam Young ’15 said. “I do not think it is legal for Internet service providers (ISP) to block or discriminate against any applications or content. Doing so eliminates equality and freedom.”

While companies like Facebook, Netflix and Google are proponents of the bill, there are a large number of opponents like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon against it. Despite over a hundred lobbying reports filed against the bill, it was still successfully passed by Congress.

“Comcast had done things that restricted usage, and that’s why the bill was passed,” Doug Kahler, Director of Information Services, said. “It’s become like electricity where you really need it for so many services these days.”

Main arguments in favor of the bill say it prevents the monopolization of the internet by giving users a wide range of choice in quality internet use. It also keeps more websites open as a giant marketplace to promote innovation. With this, it also means there can be no tax to the providers and users of internet. Additionally, while not necessarily an issue in the U.S., creating a bill that ensures net neutrality will guarantee the freedoms of Internet use are protected in the future.

“The definite pro about the bill is that one can’t be discriminated in internet usage, “ Kahler said. “It’s a lot like the phone system, where you have access, and you can’t restrict it.”

Those opponents of the bill argued that it wasn’t necessarily true that bigger companies would “block” smaller companies from being seen by the public eye. Also, there was the economic aspect that companies who want to provide larger internet use for money, argue that it helps keep their company stable by charging companies who use a much larger amount of internet and can afford to pay for the additional bandwidth.

“I think people fear that the government meddles when they don’t need to,” Kahler said. “I think we need to watch that the freedom of the bill is upheld and continue to have unrestricted access.”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was the one to determine the new rules regarding internet use, that were released in March. In a 300 page document, the FCC relayed much of the new rules, but ultimately reached the consensus that internet is part of the telecommunications service rather than information services, and net neutrality was the ultimate goal in avoiding the elevation of some web content over others.

“I think the spirit of the bill was for the mobile devices,” Kahler said. “You can’t be throttled for the amount of internet used. I think it’s a good foundational piece of legislation to keep moving forward from.”

A press release by Jon Sallet, FCC General Counsel member stated, “Congress empowered the FCC to promote broadband deployment and to remove barriers to broadband network investment while promoting competition”.

The FCC is making amendments to the bill constantly on a “notice and comment” rulemaking, and the FCC will analyze and solve certain problems case by case.

The order is not public until all Commissioners, who voted in favor, sign off on it. Until then, the order is still not officially released on the FCC website. Sallet said the ultimate goal is to get the commission released to the public as soon as possible, but final changes remain yet to be made so it is relevant for a longer time.

“I believe that enough has been done to protect the freedom and equality of using the internet from ISP and the government,” Young said.