Net neutrality adds more freedom to web

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers should allow access to all online content without bias. On Feb. 26, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 on an Open Internet Order that reclassifies broadband as a utility and empowers the commission to ensure equal Internet access.

This new rules aims to ensure “just and reasonable” Internet services to Americans, according to the NY Times. This could mean that the FCC has the ability to regulate rates set by Internet providers and prevent paid prioritization for traffic in the future.

Political science teacher Chris LePage said he views net neutrality as a reinforcement of our first amendment rights, a way for people like entrepreneurs to share their ideas and get heard.

“I think the Internet should be the resource that all people have access to, as a means of communication,” LePage said.

The potentially positive and negative repercussions of net neutrality have been widely debated. The commission chairman, Tom Wheeler said the FCC aims to “protect innovators and consumers” and preserve the Internet’s role as a “core of free expression and democratic principles.”

“Discriminating certain data is the same as discriminating certain race,” junior Tony Hsu said. “Data should be treated equally without discrimination. Internet is what keeps people from different regions of the world together. If it’s being controlled, that’s people freedom to communicate with each is being limited as well.”

Supporters include Barack Obama and as many as 4 million people on the internet. They argue that broadband service rightfully belongs as a utility like electricity or water.

President Obama reasoned that “for most Americans, the Internet has become an essential part of everyday communication and everyday life.”

Opponents, including Verizon Wireless and other Internet providers, argue that unrestricted traffic clogs their service, and by charging companies like Google and Skype, they could afford to build bigger and better networks. They also argue that the “just and reasonable” provision is too vague and “could be stretched like chewing gum,” as Roger Entner, the lead analyst at Recon Analytics in Boston, said.

Recently, Alamo Broadband and USTelecom took this issue to court. “The focus of our legal appeal will be on the FCC’s decision to reclassify broadband Internet access service as a public utility service after a decade of amazing innovation and investment under the FCC’s previous light-touch approach,” USTelecom Senior Vice President Jon Banks said in a statement. They argue that the order will dampen innovation and innovation.

“I come from an immigrant family, so I would definitely like to have better internet,” senior Abe Razzak said. “[But] both sides have a good argument … I can’t really decide on which side to pick.”

“Telecom lawyers in Washington popped the corks on the champagne,” analyst Entner said. “This will go on for a while.”