5 Things Byte Back Students Should Know about Net Neutrality


By Emily Morazán, AmeriCorps Computer Literacy Instructor & Tutor

1. It’s not as complicated as you may think.

Sure it’s full of legal and technical jargon, but at the end of the day the debate stems from a disagreement about whether or not Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have the right to control how online content is delivered to users. This two-minute video explains the basics.

2. The difference between Title I and Title II is a big deal.

A brief history: Before this debate, the Communications Act of 1934 was largely responsible for the way the Internet was regulated. The Act not only created the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) but also introduced a system to classify these forms of communications as either necessary (Title II) or optional (Title I). Title II was intended to keep access to services fair.

In 2002, the FCC used the Communications Act of 1934 to categorize high-speed Internet (that’s the Internet that does not use telephone land lines) as an “information service” under Title I. This means that Internet Service Providers weren’t subject to the same amount of regulation as Title II services.

3. One strategy to protect the Internet is to have it reclassified as a Title II service.

The FCC will vote February 26 on new regulations for the Internet. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says he will use Title II to protect the Internet and prevent Internet fast lanes. President Barack Obama has his own plan to protect the Internet (pay attention to the bullet points).

4. The argument over Net Neutrality shows how the role of the Internet has changed.

Today, in the US having access to the Internet is almost essential. It hasn’t always been that way. Startup companies use the Internet to build business when they don’t have a lot of capital to leverage. We use the Internet to apply for jobs and research important issues. We rely on access to websites like Facebook and Twitter to communicate with friends and family, organize communities, and create news. The Internet now plays an integral role in our lives. But despite how the content of the Internet expands, the speed at which ISPs are required to deliver content remains the same.

5. It should really matter to YOU.

The implications of a world without Net Neutrality are best summed up here, in an article by the Free Press: “Without Net Neutrality, ISPs would be able to block content and speech they don’t like, reject apps that compete with their own offerings, and prioritize Web traffic (reserving the fastest loading speeds for the highest bidders and sticking everyone else with the slowest).”

For more information on the history of the Internet and Net Neutrality, check out these articles:

Net Neutrality Explained in One Image

1934-2010: The Road to the Google-Verizon Proclamation


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