It Will be A Victory, but for Whom? The Battle Against Net Neutrality

By Dalisha Sturdivant

The Trump administration has driven the crowd wild once again with its latest policy stance on net neutrality.[1] However, whether the noise being heard is tears of joy – or shrieks of agony – depends on what side of the issue you rest on.[2]

On one side of the issue are the anti-net neutrality supporters, who believe that the internet should be deregulated, and on the other side of the issue are the pro-net neutrality supporters, who believe that the internet should remain free and should continue to be regulated as it was under the Obama administration.[3] Under the Obama administration the FCC established the Open internet order, which laid out the principles of net neutrality and offered a position which would allow the FCC to regulate the internet through its Title II authority.[4] Based on this authority, the internet would be viewed as a telecommunication service rather than an information service, which is governed by Title I.[5]

However, in May of 2017, the FCC under the Trump administration began to take steps to reclassify the internet as an information service rather than a telecommunication service, in hopes of developing more internet infrastructure and increasing innovation.[6] The FCC believes that if this proposal is passed, the internet can once again experience the unprecedented growth that took place over the from 1996 to 2015.[7]

This categorical change, if taken into effect, however, may alter the way the internet is used by consumers and content providers and could possibly dwindle competition amongst small businesses.[8] Strong opponents of the reclassification of the internet state that the rollback of net neutrality could deny small businesses an equal level playing field, which is championed under net neutrality.[9] Other opposers of the proposed change claim that the rhetoric used by chairman Pai that net neutrality has led to sunken internet infrastructure and broadband deployment is fallacious and theoretical at best.[10] Instead, evidence presented by Senator Edward Markey  reveals that the internet service providers have proclaimed great strides in their broadband deployment and internet investment.[11] Despite criticism to the FCC’s regulations, a majority of the major internet service providers are supporting the reclassification of the internet.[12]

These companies’ support of the proposed change in regulation has caused many to consider what the internet service providers would do with new policies in place.[13] Christopher Mitchell, the director of community broadband network for the Institute of Local Self-Reliance, is one person who has articulated his concerns about the proposed change.[14] He believes that internet service providers will create barriers for those companies they do not support, while steering viewers to those companies who are in business with the internet service providers.[15] This potential bias in the conduction of the internet,[16] has led to more than ten million comments on the FCC’s proposed regulations.[17] Further, this large response from concerned stakeholders, which substantially surpasses the responses the FCC received in 2015, shows just how salient the issue has become over the last few years.[18]

Since 2015, the internet has been governed by Title II of the Telecommunications Act.[19] The language in Title II subsection 202 of the Telecommunications Act states that common carriers are not allowed to “make any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulation facilities, or services.”[20] This Act allows the internet to be viewed as a public utility,[21]by using old FCC rules that once governed the “former Bell telephone monopoly” to apply to net neutrality.[22] This reclassification was heavily supported by the President Barack Obama, who believed reclassifying the internet as a public utility would allow all users to have equal access to the internet.[23]

Whether the internet remains a public utility, where everyone has equal access, will be up to the FCC and the comments that are received up until August 16, 2017.[24] But until a decision is reached, all will remain fair and open in the game of the world wide web.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1]See Marguerite Reardon, FCC Gets More Than Ten Million Comments on Net Neutrality, Cnet, (July 20, 2017), https://www.cnet.com/news/fcc-gets-more-10-million-comments-on-net-neutrality/. See also Sergey Denisenko, The Implications of the End of Net Neutrality, Techcrunch, (Feb. 20, 2017), https://techcrunch.com/2017/02/20/the-implications-of-the-end-of-net-neutrality/ (explaining that net neutrality is the concept where internet service providers  must provide on an equal basis, access to various companies’ content).

[2] Reardon, supra note 1, at 1 (explaining the views of tech companies such as Amazon and Google in comparison to the views of companies such as AT&T and Verizon and how these companies lie on different sides of the matter).

[3] See Adonis Hoffman, There is a Middle Ground in Neutrality Debate, The Hill, (May 15, 2017), http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/technology/333353-there-is-a-middle-ground-in-the-net-neutrality-debate (stating that when it comes to the idea of net-neutrality there are people who are positioned on both sides; however, the author believes the solution lies somewhere in the middle).  

[4] Id.

[5] Mike Godwin & Tom Struble, Don’t Freak Out About the FCC’s New Approach to Net Neutrality, Slate, (May 23, 2017), http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2017/05/don_t_freak_out_about_the_fcc_s_new_approach_to_net_neutrality.html.

[6] Restoring Internet Freedom, Fcc, https://www.fcc.gov/restoring-internet-freedom (last visited Aug. 1, 2017).

[7] Id.

[8] See Denisenko, supra note 1, at 1 (stating that net neutrality allows big corporations as well as small companies to play on a level field, in regards to the internet); see also, Keegan Green, How Changes to Net Neutrality Laws Could Affect Small Businesses, Entrepreneur, (Feb 22, 2017), https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/289416 (stating that customers may experience slower internet speeds when they enter certain sites).

[9] Green, supra note 8, at 2.

[10] See, e.g. Jon Brookin, Senator Challenges Ajit Pai Over Evidence for Net Neutrality Repeal, Arstechnica, (July 20, 2017) https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/07/senator-challenges-ajit-pai-over-evidence-for-net-neutrality-repeal/ (stating that there is no evidence to support chairman Pai’s concern). See also Sara Kamal, The Truth About Net Neutrality and Infrastructure Investment, Public Knowledge, (May 08, 2017), https://www.publicknowledge.org/news-blog/blogs/the-truth-about-net-neutrality-and-infrastructure-investment (asserting that the arguments that are being made are baseless). 

[11] See, Kamal, supra note 10, at 3 (stating that ISPs have been claiming to their investors that their investments are on the rise, and that the reclassification does not impact the way the ISPs invest).

[12] Madeline Purdue & Rachel Sandler, Internet Providers Respond to the Internet’s Huge Net Neutrality Protest, Usa Today, (July 12, 2017), https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2017/07/12/how-isps-responding-internets-net-neutrality-protest/473182001/ (stating that several internet service providers such as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast “support the Federal Communication Commission’s efforts to reverse net neutrality protections”).

[13] David Lumb, Net Neutrality Supporters Sent Over 5 Million Emails to the FCC, Engadget, (July 13, 2017), https://www.engadget.com/2017/07/13/net-neutrality-supporters-sent-5-million-emails-to-fcc/ (implying that if net neutrality is rolled back, internet service providers will “create faster and slower connections to boost their profit margins”).

[14] Maya Rao, Franken, Open Internet Advocate Push Back as FCC Moves to Dismantle ‘Net Neutrality’, Star Tribune, (Aug. 21, 2017), http://www.startribune.com/franken-open-internet-advocates-push-back-as-fcc-moves-to-dismantle-net-neutrality/441196013/.

[15] See id (stating that the internet service providers would be the only winners, if the rules were changed).

[16] See Brian Feldman, Net-Neutrality Protests Result in Millions of Emails and Comments to the Government, Selectall, (July 13, 2017), http://nymag.com/selectall/2017/07/net-neutrality-protests-result-in-millions-of-comments.html (describing the day of action that took place to rescue net neutrality).

[17] Reardon, supra note 1, at 1.

[18] Id (stating that in a week’s time span, more than 2 million comments were filed, as well as more than a thousand activists participated in online protests).

[19] Rebecca R. Ruiz & Steve Lohr, F.C.C. Approves Net Neutrality Rules, Classifying Broadband Internet Service as a Utility, New York Times, (Feb. 26, 2015), https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/27/technology/net-neutrality-fcc-vote-internet-utility.html?mcubz=1.

[20] 47 U.S.C.A. § 202 (LexisNexis, LEXIS through Pub. L. No. 115-46).

[21] Id.

[22] Larry Downes, The Tangled Web of Net Neutrality and Regulation, Harvard Business Review, (Mar. 31, 2017), https://hbr.org/2017/03/the-tangled-web-of-net-neutrality-and-regulation.

[23] Alina Selyukh, Obama Pressures FCC for Strong Net Neutrality Rules, Reuters, (Nov. 10, 2014), http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-internet-neutrality-idUSKCN0IU1I620141110.

[24] See Jacob Kastrenakes, The FCC’s Proposal to Kill Net Neutrality is Now Out—Here’s How to Comment, Verge, (May 23, 2017), https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2017/5/23/15681434/net-neutrality-how-to-comment-fcc-proposal-released (stating that the FCC is more concerned about the quality of opinions rather than the quantity of opinions).

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