By: Ryan Scott
Since the creation of the internet, it has remained largely unregulated in terms of the delivery of content. The concept of net neutrality or “open internet” that has been in place up until now is being looked at by the FCC, which could change the way content on the internet is consumed and delivered.
The FCC is considering a set of rule changes that would change the way content on the internet is treated. As it stands, all content on the internet must be treated equally. Internet service providers such as Comcast, Time Warner and Cox can not legally give priority to a particular website’s content. A video being streamed from YouTube is treated the same as an article on a personal blog.
However, should the current set of rules being considered by the FCC come to pass, that will change. The rules would allow internet service providers to charge content providers a premium in order to obtain faster speeds. Industry and government have used a metaphor involving an internet “fast lane.”
For example, Netflix could potentially pay extra money to Comcast in order to deliver their customer’s content at higher speeds. There is concern that these costs will be passed down to the individual consumers as well.
“If it does happen, it’s going to trickle down to us. If I’m paying for something already and it goes up, it’s going to affect me,” said MCC student Jeffrey Paull.
According to Net Index, The United States currently ranks 25th in terms of download speeds with 29.86mbps on average.
“The web was not designed for commerce, but free expression. As with most everything, once it has been commercialized, somebody is going to try to find an advantage, using the government as leverage. This is what you are seeing,” said Elliot Cherner, business professor at MCC.
Opponents of this change feel that it will be harmful to those trying to get started on the Internet, because they will not be able to afford the premium fees and will have a more difficult time providing their content.
Companies starting out on the Internet, should these rules come to pass, would potentially have a more difficult time competing with current companies because they may not be able to afford the “fast lane” premium.
“It would stifle people breaking into the internet. Not strangle, but certainly narrow the portal through which the wide world of the internet can be accessed,” said Ryan Peek, acting student at Brigham Young University. “As usual, the key to a bigger door would become money.”
Peek also points said that even if the consumer is paying for higher internet speeds, if the content provider they are trying to get content from hasn’t paid for the higher speeds, it won’t matter.
Though, not all consumers feel the same way, some are comfortable with the proposed changes.
“The interesting thing about net neutrality to me is that a lot of people seem to want all traffic on the net to be treated equal, yet it isn’t equal. I understand having to pay more for Netflix would suck, but sending movies through the internet takes up more bandwidth than just about everything else. To me it makes sense for more bandwidth to equal more expensive,” said Chris Wiggins, Phoenix resident and IT technician.
Greg Pratt, economics professor at MCC, feels that the whole debate is being a bit polarized.
“Both sides are coming at it from polar ends of the debate, but really it’s somewhere in the middle,” Pratt said. “The technology is moving faster than the legal institutions.”
Pratt also said that he feels the government is inefficient when it comes to regulating business.
“The current proposal with net neutrality is price control by the government, in many cities direct price control,” Pratt said.
Pratt’s comment about direct price control refers to the fact that many consumers have two or less choices when it comes to internet service providers.
The FCC has been welcoming public comments on the matter and to date has received nearly 4 million of them, the majority of which appear to be in favor of keeping true to the open internet and not allowing ISPs to be able to charge for a “fast lane.”
“One of the last free places is The Internet, the FCC needs to stay out of it,” said MCC student Joshua Lesch.
Those who would like to leave a comment for the FCC can visit fcc.gov/comments.