Take a second and click the refresh button on your browser. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Now click this link. Or this one. How long did it take for the page to load? A couple seconds? Under the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order, internet providers like Comcast, Mediacom, Verizon, CenturyLink, and others are bound by Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. So what does that mean to you and me? It means that all internet traffic, as far as your internet provider is concerned, is treated the same. Whether you’re visiting Progress and Tea, Google, Yahoo!, or any other site on the internet, a byte is a byte. Websites may vary in size, but two files of the same size should be delivered at the same speed.
If I haven’t managed to bore you yet with technical and legal jargon, let’s take a minute to talk about why this is important. Under Title II of the Communications Act, internet providers aren’t allowed to play favorites (more commonly referred to as “net neutrality”). Think about this scenario for a minute. You just got home from a long day at work, and are looking forward to an evening of Netflix and Chill. You turn on the TV and pull up Netflix, and find something to watch. You push play, and… you wait. It turns out your internet provider recently struck a deal with Hulu, so Hulu users get a fast track while streaming, and your internet provider subsequently slows down Netflix to allow more bandwidth for Hulu. Frustrating, to say the least. Thankfully, net neutrality prevents situations like this from happening, but net neutrality is in danger. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon Executive, is a strong advocate for reclassifying internet service providers to Title I of the Communications Act, which would make them much more like cable providers, where you can be charged extra to access some content, and the internet provider can make deals with companies to give certain internet traffic preferential treatment. This policy, while favorable to large internet providers, could mean higher costs to consumers and larger entry barriers to tech startups.
What can be done to help protect net neutrality? The FCC will soon be taking public comments on the subject. The FCC has done its best to hide the comment form for this particular issue, but thankfully, after doing a full episode on this issue, John Oliver’s staff from Last Week Tonight created http://www.gofccyourself.com, which redirects directly to the contact form. Just click “express” and leave a comment saying that you strongly support internet service providers being classified under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act. However, the FCC is an appointed body which answers directly to the President. You can also contact your representatives and senators, who also have the ability to introduce new legislation to protect net neutrality.
It is the FCC’s responsibility to protect the best interest of the American people. It is up to them to make sure that