Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality

Last week I taught a class over at the Senior Center about new technology. The majority of the questions related to "cord cutting" which is a means of opting out of expensive cable packages in lieu of streaming services (or content provided over and delievered through the internet). Seniors wanted to know how they could get entertainment using technology like a Roku or Smart TV to play content from subscription and free streaming services like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, SlingTV, Amazon Prime and others. At the end of class concerns about Net Neutrality were raised as the delivery of streaming services may be impacted by the upcoming changes proposed by the FCC.


Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet Service Providers (or ISPs -- think Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T) must treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. For instance, under these principles, internet service providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down or charge money for specific websites and online content.

Why am I Hearing About it NOW?

This Tuesday, December 14th the Federal Communications Commission will most likely repeal the Net Neutrality rules that were put into place in 2015 under the Obama administration.  Currently the chairman, Ajit Pai, has the 3 to 2 votes needed to repeal the designation due to the majority make-up of Republican commission members. Congress has oversight of the Commission including the ability to appointment members but will not vote on the issue as it is not in charge of regulation.

What is Being Repealed?

In 2015, ISPs were classified under Title II which made them "common carriers" instead of "information providers." This classification means that Internet Service Providers have to follow the same rules as utilities as outlined in the Communications Act of 1934 which was amended in 1996 to make accommodations in technological advances and differences in service.  The repeal of the "common carrier" designation became a priority of the new chairman when appointed by President Trump.

What are People Nervous About?

Many see the Net Neutrality rules as pro-consumer and as a means to protecting how the internet functions today. Another concern is Pai's prior connections to the Internet Service Provider, Verizon. Net Neutrality is an issue that has also been for the most part divided along party lines and the current repeal doesn't have bipartisan support.

For more information about Net Neutrality see these sources:

How to Argue About Net Neutrality - Washington Post

Net Neutrality for Dummies - Business Insider

Net Neutrality - Last Week Tonight

Net Neutrality - New York Times (all coverage)

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