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What Is Net Neutrality, And What Does It Mean For You?

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Net neutrality is a buzzword among cable and internet providers and politicians. In 2015, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) approved sweeping neutrality rules later repealed in 2017. President Joe Biden signed the executive order to restore the net neutrality laws in 2021. This review examines net neutrality, existing laws, and their implications for customers:

Net Neutrality for Cable and Internet Providers

Net neutrality mainly affects how ISPs (internet service providers) provide online content. The principle requires ISPs to offer content equally without favoring specific websites or content. Net neutrality implies that traffic to all sites is equally accessible. It focuses on the following three practices:

•    Equal Access – Internet service providers must allow equal and fast access to lawful web content. The ISP should let all users have the same access without capping bandwidth or slowing down the connection.

•    No Paid Priorities – ISPs cannot give a "fast lane" treatment or prioritize companies or customers because they pay a premium. The internet provider mustn't slow down connections to those who don't pay a premium.

•    Throttling – ISPs cannot limit user bandwidth or delay connections to specific sites based on the user’s internet activities.

Internet service providers without net neutrality laws can block or slow down access to specific sites. ISPs can also buffer connections to favored destinations, particularly those paying a premium. A practical example is the ISP slowing down movie/TV streaming connections to push users into switching to cable TV.

Net Neutrality Laws and Origins

FCC first enforced net neutrality laws in 2015, but the roots go back to 2003 in Columbia University. Tim Wu, law professor in the university first coined network neutrality in a paper on broadband discrimination. Professor Wu sought to provide a general perspective on the subject of net neutrality and why ISPs should have the control to do as they wish.

In his paper, he expressed the importance of government regulation. Wu believed in ensuring that the short-term goals of internet service providers do not hinder the best services from reaching the end-user. The perspective became popular as the Bush and Obama administrations were quick to enact anti-discrimination laws to protect net neutrality.

Net Neutrality Timeline

The FCC voted the sweeping net neutrality order in 2015, but many key events shaped the decision since Wu's perspective in 2003. Here are some highlights that changed the cause of net neutrality laws in the USA:

•    2004: The FCC chairman outlines the Four-Internet-Freedoms in a speech.

•    2015: The FCC voted in favor of the new net neutrality laws under President Obama's administration. The law effectively bars governments and corporate groups from controlling free and open internet access.

•    2017: Under President Trump, the FCC voted to repeal and reverse net neutrality laws pertaining to throttling, blocking, and paid prioritization.

•    2021: President Biden signs the new executive order to restore all net neutrality laws repealed in 2017.

What Does Net Neutrality Mean for You?

Most of the public favors keeping the net neutrality rules, but not everyone shares the perspective. What the rules mean will depend on how you view the need for government internet regulation. Some people believe repealing the laws allows for a more competitive market capable of self-regulation.

Net neutrality advocates insist eliminating the rules reduces competition and may result in higher prices. Without net neutrality laws, internet service providers are free to do whatever they want and push the boundaries of what's fair.

Countries without net neutrality rules may experience the adverse effects of lacking such regulations.

The popular concern is ISPs bundling services and charging more. Streaming videos on Netflix and YouTube may cost a standard fee. Those who want Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social sites may pay extra. Listening to music on SoundCloud and Spotify will also costs extra, and so does sending messages via Skype and iMessage.

Net neutrality laws help to prevent ISPs from:

•    Prioritizing any content, service, or application

•    Restricting access to legal content, service, or application

•    Capping the volume of data customers can use

•    Inspecting and collecting data packets content transited through their network.

•    Throttling specific content services or applications

•    Prohibiting customers from attaching non-harmful devices to their connection

The 2021 Net Neutrality Executive Order

President Joe Biden restored the 2015 net neutrality rules via the new Executive Order. The order also covers many issues around technology and agriculture. In the new order, the FCC is urged to take more similar actions to the 2015 rules to improve competition among ISPs. Here are some key takeaways about the new order:

•    All the 2015 Laws: President Biden's executive order specifically revisits the sweeping net neutrality rules introduced by FCC in 2015 under former President Obama's administration. A return to 2015 means ISPs are no longer allowed to block, throttle, or offer paid prioritization.

•    Easy ISP Switching: The new order seeks to end unreasonable/unjust early service termination fees. Eliminating such costs makes it easier for consumers to switch providers without incurring the high prices.

•    Broadband Nutrition Label: This focus brings more transparency to broadband prices. The label aims to provide clear and accurate details regarding the ISP's fees, network practices, and performance. Each provider is required to provide a label with the relevant information.

•    FCC Updates: Internet service providers are required to keep the FCC updated by sending regular reports about broadband prices and subscriptions. This measure will help the FCC accurately measure the how many people have/lack broadband access.

•    Landlord Restrictions: The new executive order prevents landlords and ISPs from inhibiting tenants' choices. Customers living in large apartment buildings should have the freedom to choose any provider serving the area without any restrictions. Landlords found restricting choice will pay a fine by the FCC.

Working with ISPs Supporting Net Neutrality

Neutrality ensures fair choice and pricing for customers, but you still need to find reputable ISPs. Working with a trustworthy home cable and internet provider will help you set up a strong and secure connection tailored for your household’s needs.

At Teleful Connect, we work with leading cable and internet providers to cover your home internet, cable, and security needs. All our partners also comply with current neutrality rules, so you can browse all legal websites without worrying about slow connections or restrictions. We can help you determine the best plan and setup to maximize your home internet.