Tom: Think of the things that you need nowadays: food, shelter and, well, the internet. Today, two-and-a-half billion people worldwide use the internet everyday. But there is a big fight to protect free and open access to the internet, and it is called net neutrality. Maggie Rulli has the story.
Maggie: What if your internet service was more like your cable service. You would have a basic package that would get you some websites, but in order to get your favorite websites you would have to pay extra. Or what if it was like your cell phone service, and if you streamed too much video or other content, you could face overage charges.
Well, that is all part of a big debate going on right now about net neutrality, whether the internet should remain open, or net neutral, to everyone as it has been since it was first created. Or if internet companies have the right to regulate or restrict the flow of information on the internet as they see fit.
In December of 2010, the Federal Communications Commission came up with the Open Internet Order. It was the first set of rules ever created to regulate the internet. The Open Internet Order said that companies, which provide access to the internet, could not block or discriminate against any content on the internet, meaning they must treat all websites equally. But those rules didn’t stand up to a challenge in court. However, the court did find that the FCC has the right to make rules for the internet.
Maggie Reardon: The victory that the FCC had in all of this is that the court agreed that, yes, this is something that citizens should be concerned about. It’s something that the regulatory body who’s overseeing this should be concerned about it.
Maggie: And so the FCC set out to create a new set of rules. But what they came up with has a lot of people worried. The new proposal, which was announced last week, would allow internet companies, like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, to charge content providers, like Netflix or YouTube, more money so their customers could get faster access to their websites. But critics of the proposal worry that small or startup companies won’t be able to pay to compete with bigger companies, or that the internet providers who also provide their own content will be more likely to suppress access to competitors.
Reardon: So, are they going to discriminate against that traffic? Are they going to try to make it so that I can’t get to Netflix? Or are they going to try to degrade the service? And that’s really the fear there.
Maggie: But the FCC’s chairman, Tom Wheeler, explained in a recent blog post that the new proposal would empower the agency to crack down against internet service providers that are discriminating against content providers.
Reardon: Businesses like to make money, and so if they have a little too much power that is what the government is there for and they need to look out for that. But at the same time, you don’t want rules that are in place that are going to stifle innovation and are going to make people not want to invest in new businesses and new ideas.
Maggie: Maggie Rulli, Channel One news.
Tom: Now we want to hear what you think. Should internet providers be allowed to charge companies for faster access to their websites? Head on over to our website at ChannelOne.com and let us know.