Politics

What Is Net Neutrality and Why Did Lobbyists Kill It?

Yesterday President Obama explicitly urged the FCC to take action to preserve net neutrality, a big boost to advocates for a free and open internet. The President said:

 

Meanwhile, with Republicans taking a majority in the Senate, it seems likely Republican John Thune will take over as chair of the Senate Commerce Committee. Senator Thune is on the record as lukewarm toward the FCC’s efforts to preserve Net Neutrality.

In case you're still not sure how Net Neutrality might affect you, here's an image BitTorrent created that presents a potential outcome if net neutrality is not preserved. It would possibly pave the way for tiered internet systems, with providers controlling bandwidth depending on which website you want to access. 

Life Without Net Neutrality

 

Right before the elections, we sat down for a quick Q&A with Josh Silver, a campaign finance expert, co-founder of Represent.Us, and former CEO of Free Press.

1) In a few sentences, what is net neutrality and why is it important?

Net Neutrality is the simple idea that all content on the web, of the same type (video, audio, emails, etc.) should move across the web at the same speed, regardless of who is sending it. It matters because all communication - TV, radio, phone, etc. - is migrating to become a web-based service. Without Net Neutrality, the web becomes like cable TV, where your web provider decides whose content downloads clearly and quickly, and who doesn't. Lose Net Neutrality and we lose the web as we know it.

2) Who specifically is for net neutrality and who is against it?

Everyone is for it except for the phone and cable companies who profit from putting up toll booths on the web -- and a growing number of deep pocketed content providers that can afford to put their product in the fast lane. 

3) What role does money in politics play in this debate? 

Everything. Without the corrupting influence of money in politics, Net Neutrality would be an ironclad law of the land. In 2013, 4 of the top 20 biggest spending commercial interests were trying to dismantle Net Neutrality. No strong defenders were in the top 20. 

4) Who is currently winning the net neutrality battle? 

Wait for it.... in 2010, cable and phone companies persuaded the Obama Federal Communications Commission (FEC) to introduce Net Neutrality rules that, were written such that they would surely be overturned by the courts. They were overturned, and then the current FCC Chairman --- and former head of the cable TV association --- introduced a proposal earlier this year that would formally end Net Neutrality by allowing Internet providers like Verizon and Comcast to charge web companies like Netflix for access to a so-called Internet "fast lane," which would give sites faster loading times. The public comment period for those proposed rules is about to end, and the FCC will vote on a final proposal.

Tom Wheeler meme

5) What can concerned citizens do to take action on behalf of net neutrality?

Two things: First, go to Save The Internet and file a comment with the FCC. Next, join our national campaign to pass city and state anti-corruption laws, and get money out so that issues like Net Neutrality can finally be passed into law.

Check out more about these issues at www.ourtime.org