The subject of Net Neutrality is discussed in many forums after these two words were coined in 2003 by Media Law Professor Tin Wu from the University of Columbia, which refers to the treatment of all data on the Internet.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are legally restrained from either slowing down and intentionally blocking or charging additions from specific websites for online content. They were also bound by these principles, from discriminating against or between users, content, websites, platforms and different applications, types of attached equipment or methods, and communications systems that would be on the Internet.
The long arm of the Law
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was formed in 1934 as a successor to the Federal Radio Commission and enacted into law under the Communications Act of 1934. The FCC is the regulatory body for all communication-related affairs within the jurisdiction of the government of the United States of America and oversees everything concerned with this essential aspect in the day to day lives of all Americans. It had an estimated Federal budget of US $ 388 million in 2016, which is expected to rise substantially in 2018, and has 1,688 federal employees with an equal amount of men and women.
The FCC brought down their powerful fist when Comcast, an internet service provider, secretly throttled peer-to-peer uploads from their competition and the FCC had to order them to stop such actions. Another, The Madison River Communications Company, who were fined the US $ 15,000 in 2004 by the FCC when they were detected restricting their consumers from accessing their competition.
After these and some other attempts, the FCC has been very strict with Net Neutrality and has been monitoring the internet for any breaches by the many internet providers and others to have a level playing for everyone with anyone gaining any advantages illegally.
Net Neutrality maintained by the FCC.
Under President Barack Obama, there were moves made for the FCC to enhance Net Neutrality. There would not be any room for anyone to create a monopoly, especially the Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
There was much hue and cry, and the FCC backed down under the severe pressure exerted on The President and the government to refrain from such actions and to maintain Net Neutrality as it was without tampering with it. There have been many arguments for Net Neutrality to be maintained as it is and another counter to that to remove all regulations and leave the Internet as free as it should be and for anyone to do whatever they would like, in which case there would be room for the big players to throttle the smaller ones.
Rolling back Net Neutrality rules
The same issue has cropped up again with the new administration in place under President Donald Trump and with the new Chairman Ajith Pai at the help of the Federal Communications Commission with a proposal now being presented by the FCC which is likely to pass, to remove the restrictions if any, imposed by Net Neutrality.
Those in favor of Net Neutrality have been taken aback and fear that it would open up cutthroat competition among the big and the small players, with the consumers facing the tussle’s brunt and having to dole out more from their pockets. Like the issues that happened with Comcast and The Madison Communications Company and if we are to look further away from our shores into repressive governments around the world, the ISPs who are big on the internet could do whatever they would want and get away scot-free even without a slap on their wrist.
The Net Neutrality laws were like the Sword of Damocles hanging over all those who intended to cross the red line of misusing the internet to their benefit, but with the laws being rolled back, there could be a free for all and all Hell could break loose.
Only Time will tell
During the short time they have been in office, the Trump administration is known to do things of grave significance without much of a thought to what would happen in the long term, some of which have been condemned by many.
Whether this is another of those blunders “Only time will tell” as we cannot gauge what the consequences of this move would be, especially with the internet becoming more competitive and vibrant than what is was two years ago when the Obama administration tried to move on the matter on an opposite direction.
Two schools of thought
There are now two schools of thought, one to keep Net Neutrality as it is and the other like what the Trump administration is trying to do on which the Chairman of the FCC has promised that there would be intense competition, new jobs created, and a boost given to the economy.
Taking the issue at face value and of what the Chairman of the FCC is promising, it could be just illusions as most of the big companies have welcomed it, and it is food for thought as to what they would be having up their sleeves to be so enthusiastically pining for it.
Some are of the view that certain aspects being monitored by the ISPs would increase speeds on the internet, and such very rosy arguments are being put forward, but what under currents would run and what possibilities would open up for unscrupulous companies to strangle consumers would be the big question we need to ask ourselves.
The Net Neutrality laws have not been controversial as envisaged by some and have been somewhat controlling factors to keep any nefarious activities initiated by rogue ISPs and have kept consumers happy.
Whether removing them totally would be advantages or detrimental cannot be quantified at this juncture but letting the dogs loose could be dangerous, and after they start biting like many other issues with this administration, it would need to be brought back again, whether it would too late then, would be anybody’s guess.