Posts tagged net neutrality

An billboard against a blue sky with clouds that says, "Internet Neutrality: Straight Ahead," the opposite of what will happen if practices like zero-rating become a widespread standard.

Zero-Rating: Net Neutrality and What You Can Do to Protect It

An billboard against a blue sky with clouds that says, "Internet Neutrality: Straight Ahead," the opposite of what will happen if practices like zero-rating become a widespread standard.

Zero-rating is a sneaky way that ISPs try to control the way we consume data on the web.

 

At the end of the day, the Internet is just a network of tubes.  So who’s to say which tubes cost money to use and which don’t? Without net neutrality, Internet service providers and other companies can use strategies like zero-rating to forever change the way we browse the web. In a world where most television networks are controlled by a few major companies, the Internet is really one of last level playing fields out there.

What Is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality is the concept that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. That means that ISPs (Internet Service Providers) do not have the right to block, slow down, or use paid prioritization to favor one website over another.

Essentially, a world without net neutrality is a world of censored knowledge. An open internet benefits everyone. Medical professionals in developing areas can search for critical information to treat patients.  Small family-owned businesses have the opportunity to expand into multi-national companies, servicing millions. People around the globe deserve an equal chance at success.

The Internet is and should always be an open forum for the free exchange of ideas.  In fact, the UN recently deemed Internet access a human right. In the digital age, it is important to discuss and determine the ethicality of Internet usage control.

Zero-rating

One sneaky way that ISPs are controlling the way we use the internet is through zero-rating.  When you use data to browse websites on your smartphone, your service provider keeps track of your data usage.  To prevent users from maxing out their data caps on the first day, say by watching two hours of YouTube on their daily commute, they zero-rate some sites.

With zero-rating, certain sites or apps don’t count towards the total amount of data you’ve used.  For example, a video streaming company can pay your service provider in advance to join this “zero-rating club.” This makes their services more appealing than another streaming site that fills your data cap more quickly.

If you think about it, there is no need for data caps or zero-rating.  If networks already have enough bandwidth to unlimited data to zero-rating sites, then there is enough for everyone.  On top of being highly illogical, this practice is violating net neutrality.  The Netherlands, Slovenia, and Chile have already banned this practice, but the FCC remains silent on zero-rating regulation.

A World Without Net Neutrality

If ISPs continue to offer preferential treatment, strong service companies will become even more powerful.  Not only that, ISPs will dictate how you surf the Internet in your free time.  Right now, the web is composed of mostly streaming sites, blogs, games, social media, and email services.

Service providers will want to control which sites cost more to visit, and will also want additional fees from every website to show their content to customers. They can also choose to block certain sites and make visiting certain sites more expensive than others.

For those who argue that abolishing net neutrality can increase service provider competition, a free and open internet also stimulates ISP competition.  It also is the backbone of entrepreneurship in the digital age.  It promotes freedom of speech innovation.  Lack of net neutrality can lead to monopolies, which are already a big issue in free market economics.

What Can You Do About It?

To speak to your local legislators about this issue, or to contact members of the FCC like Chairman Ajit Pai, Mignon Clyburn, and Michael O’Reilly, here are some tips:

The first and easiest way to contact them is via email. Their email addresses are located on their website. You can also call them.  Legislators take their call appointments seriously.  If you are interested in tech and have educated opinions to provide on the issue, they are eager to listen.  Since they themselves are not tech experts, they want to be as informed as possible when creating tech policies.

If you are a DC local, you can choose to speak with them in person. If you are not, you can even make appointments to video chat with FCC commissioners or local legislators.

The Internet is a utility, not a commodity. Under the Obama administration, it was deemed a telecommunications service, meaning that it receives the same treatment as water, gas, and electricity services.  However, under the Trump administration, these rules are projected to reverse.  If you are a net neutrality supporter, it is your job to voice your opinion.

If you would like to receive more news on the latest in cyber security, Internet happenings, and general technology buzz, stayed tuned on our Geek-Aid blog.

Net neutrality written on a wooden surface, a hot button topic for the FCC.

FCC Changing Net Neutrality Rules Soon

Net neutrality written on a wooden surface, a hot button topic for the FCC.

The protection of net neutrality by the FCC may cease to exist.

The ongoing battle for the future of the internet rages on. At Geek Aid, we’ve discussed the in’s and out of net neutrality. For more than a decade several groups within the FCC have debated time and time again on how the internet should be regulated. Some parties feel like regulations are necessary to prevent business from treating consumer unfairly, while others believe it threatens the spirit of competition among internet providers.

The Obama administration set rules for net neutrality. They reclassified the internet as a telecommunication service. With a new title and standards, the government was able to prevent internet companies from slowing down or blocking certain services. Now that Ajit Pai is the new chairman of the FCC, he has laid plans to strip the internet of its title and reduce regulations.

What Changes Are Coming From the FCC?

Ajit Pai is notorious for being an advocate for fewer regulations, voting against the FCC’s 2015 rules. Like many others, he believes in the idea of competition. His plans to roll back on the Obama administration’s rules include the following:

  • Turn the Internet Into a Title I Service – The current Title II ruling for the internet treats it like a public utility. This is the same classification as electricity, water, and natural gas. The new ruling could treat it as an information service, meaning the government has less control over what these companies do.
  • Remove the Internet Conduct Standard – This enables the FCC to investigate zero-rating schemes that create fast lanes for certain services over others. With fast lanes being a part of Pai’s agenda, investigations won’t be necessary.
  • Review “Bright-Line Rules” – The bright-line rules make it illegal to block access, throttle, or create fast lanes for content online. Removing these rules is the primary focus of Pai’s time as chairman of the FCC.

Recently, the federal court has prevented internet providers from taking Obama’s net neutrality rules to court. While that might sound like good news, it’s not. As Pai’s changes to the FCC becoming more and more of a possibility, federal judges don’t see the point in reviewing rules set to change.

Will the Changes Happen?

It seems likely. The proposal is up for debate within the FCC on May 18th. Many of the FCC’s officials are for Pai’s changes, including the commissioner and senior public servants. The public can voice their opinions to the FCC but ultimately have no say in the vote. The publicly elected representatives are the ones who do. No one knows if they will listen to the vast majority of people for net neutrality.

If and when these rules are in place, the FCC will no longer be in charge of privacy complaints. Instead, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will handle those objections. If you want to make your voice heard, contact the FCC before the vote takes place.

An image of earth surrounded by network signals, representing the internet. Some people are for and against net neutrality on the web.

Why People Are for and Against Net Neutrality

An image of earth surrounded by network signals, representing the internet. Some people are for and against net neutrality on the web.

Some people want open access to the internet, while others are against net neutrality.

Last week we discussed the troubled history of net neutrality. For years, the government has debated whether its guiding principles should be put into place. However, why is there such contention? Why are lawmakers so divided on this issue? Here are the reasons why people are for and against net neutrality.

The Champions of Net Neutrality

There are a lot of motives to back the net neutrality. It’s equal internet access for all. This idea is built around the notion that the internet is a necessary tool for everyone. People need it to communicate and send information in the modern age. The laws created in 2015 are meant to protect the concept.

The biggest reason people fight for it is because they are afraid of what kind of world an unregulated internet leaves. Without regulations, companies are able to selectively put people in what is called the “Fast Lane.” Essentially, those who can pay more receive better service. Those who don’t can potentially have their access or services slow down.

Some even fear that websites and services may be slowed down by internet service providers (ISP’s) based on another companies’ interest. That is why big name companies like Amazon and Microsoft are in favor of net neutrality and its regulations.

The Opposition Against Net Neutrality

Why would anyone be against net neutrality? Well, there are always two sides to any story. And if you are going to argue for one, it is imperative to know the other. There are big names on the opposition of net neutrality as well. That includes AT&T and Comcast, the very companies that provide internet access.

They argue that not all internet traffic is equal, and some need to be prioritized over others. Some content, like a video, takes up a lot of bandwidth. Some expert computer scientists, like Harsha Madhyastha, argue that slightly slowing down other data might be necessary to allow content like video to play at an optimal level.

Net neutrality could also threaten the idea of competition. ISP’s believe that some content providers who use a lot of bandwidth should pay for a “fast lane.” That way, customers can choose which service they wish to get their access to the internet from, especially if the content they want is more accessible there.

As the trump administration forms within the government, we will begin to see what shape the internet will take. Until then, what side are you on?

A world map, representing the internet, which is something net neutrality wishes to protect.

The Troubled History of Net Neutrality

A world map, representing the internet, which is something net neutrality wishes to protect.

Till this day, the government still debates the value of net neutrality.

Net neutrality has been and continues to be a hot-button issue. As Google defines it, net neutrality is “The principle that internet service should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.” Find out what this issue is about and how the government of the United States has handled it.

A Brief History

Back in 2003, media law professor Tim Wu coined the infamous term and reinvigorated the idea that access to the internet should be the same for everyone. It’s the idea that no one (user, website, business, application company, etc.) should be discriminately given poor internet service or charged differently than others.

During the Obama’s presidency, his administration was largely in favor of the principle, putting into place rules to protect it.  In 2015, the U.S. Federal Communication Commission (FCC) reclassified the internet as a telecommunications service. This essentially treats the internet in a similar way to electricity, gas, and water. The law instills the following rules:

  • Companies cannot prioritize one piece of content over the other.
  • Broadband providers cannot block lawful content.
  • Providers cannot slow down or throttle certain content or services.

The State of Net Neutrality

With the election of President Donald Trump, the state of net neutrality is in question. His administration seeks to reverse the rules put into place in 2015.

Former Verizon lawyer, Ajit Pai, is now the chairman in charge of the FCC. He started out in the FCC as a commissioner and during his time has been an opponent of net neutrality. His new position might put him one step further towards achieving the Trump administration’s goal.

For more than a decade, several groups have debated for and against net neutrality. Check back with us next week as we list why people are for and against net neutrality.

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