Net Neutrality: What it Means and Why It’s Significant

January 16th, 2018

On December 14, 2017, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) removed Net Neutrality, the legal framework that governs Internet access and control. The repeal has incited an uproar among consumer advocates and companies alike that are concerned about the new possibility for service providers to manipulate Internet traffic. So what is Net Neutrality and what are the pros and cons? Here’s what you need to know.

What is Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality is the governing principle that Internet providers treat all web traffic equally, giving equal status to all network packets with no favorites or prioritized traffic flow (so-called “neutrality”). These rules ensure Internet service providers (ISPs) don’t manipulate traffic, so providers such as Comcast can’t charge Netflix for a faster path and can’t block or slow apps that rival their own services.

This net-neutral approach is more or less how the Internet has worked since its creation. From the start, it was designed as a best effort platform–all packets are created equal. Proponents of Net Neutrality rules claim it codifies this status.

In 2015, the inception of Net Neutrality by the FCC granted the agency new powers to regulate the Internet. At the core of the debate is Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, which allows the FCC to govern public utilities and their service providers. In 2015, the FCC deemed ISPs “common carriers,” making them subject to the same legal rules as other public utilities. However, in December 2017, Net Neutrality was repealed, removing the 2015 rules for ISPs and creating concerns among advocates on both sides of the issue.

What are the Pros and Cons of Net Neutrality?

Some say that Net Neutrality rules are good because:

Others argue Net Neutrality rules are bad because:

What Do the Consumer Advocates and Business Communities Say?

There are many concerns, viewpoints, and power plays in the mix.

Consumer Concerns
  • Price Increases: ISPs will likely charge consumers more for bandwidth-heavy content services (Netflix)
  • ISP Monopolies: “My town only has one ISP!”
  • Censorship and content regulation
Business Concerns
  • Price Increases: Companies that leverage public Internet service for network connectivity could potentially face higher prices for faster Internet service lanes.
  • Monopolies with Mergers between ISPs and Content Providers: Large ISPs are merging with content providers (e.g. AT&T + Time Warner Cable). Will the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforce Department of Justice antitrust rules and break them up?
  • Passing the Bandwidth Buck – ISPs vs. Content Providers: ISPs like the repeal because they can now charge content providers for excessive bandwidth usage (e.g. Netflix). Meanwhile, content providers (e.g. Netflix) want to maintain neutrality rules so they can pass the bandwidth cost back to ISPs and say, “You must treat the packets equally.”
Power Grabs and Political Concerns
  • Will the FCC ruling to repeal Net Neutrality be overturned? Lawsuits are being filed and protests are raging…
  • Who should govern the Internet–entrepreneurs, consumers, and the market or the government and the FCC? Who should govern ISP monopolies–the FCC under Net Neutrality or the FTC under antitrust laws? Does Net Neutrality give the FCC too much power in terms of both regulating the Internet and in managing ISP monopolies?

What is the Impact of Net Neutrality on Enterprise IT Network Management?

Get the answers in our other blog post, Net Neutrality Repeal: The Impact on Your IT Network

Jody Gilliam

With 15+ years of experience developing content-focused marketing strategies for technology companies, Jody crafts thought leadership articles and develops research ideas to support Masergy’s marketing initiatives. Her background in journalism serves her well, as she works closely with industry analysts and Masergy’s top leaders to publish engaging content. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English and communications from Southwestern University and her master’s degree in digital marketing from the University of Denver.