Net neutrality guide: Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask

On December 14, FCC will take a vote to undo the landmark regulations that had placed Internet Service Providers under strict regulatory oversight

In a piece of news that came as a shock to the people, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman,  Ajit Pai, on Tuesday announced the commission’s plan to dismantle its landmark regulation which ensures that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) treat all content equally. The Federal Communications Commission is an independent agency of the United States government created by statute to regulate interstate communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable

FCC’s plans to retract from its previous stand has sparked a debate between the ISPs and the consumer groups, who are opposing the move so much so that FCC’s filings page about an ongoing proceeding titled ‘Restoring Internet Freedom’ has been filled with over 22,167,500 comments from the people supporting net neutrality. Take a look at the image:

Net Neutrality

FCC on Net Neutrality (Photo: FCC grab)

The vote to repeal the net neutrality is expected to take place on December 14. Ahead of the vote here’s all you need to know about the issue:

What is net neutrality?
Net neutrality is a concept which ensures that the ISPs treat all legal data equally, regardless of where it is coming from or where it is going to. It ensures that ISPs don’t charge differently based on applications, user, content or equipment used.

To put it simply, the Internet is like a highway where ISPs are supposed to act as roadside assistance. Net neutrality ensures that data flows on networks without any discrimination or censorship. It also ensures that ISPs don’t stifle tech companies like Facebook, Pinterest, Google, etc.

FCC enforced net neutrality in the US in February 2015. The following month, the commission released details of the new rule.

Why is FCC opposing net neutrality now?
Pai and other Republicans believe that the rules adopted by the Obama administration prevent the ISPs from making investments to upgrade their infrastructure that would provide high-speed Internet in urban and rural areas.

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“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet,” Pai said in a statement. His initiative is being applauded by companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast as it would instantly lift the stifling restriction cloud over their heads and allow them to raise tariffs and up their revenues.

How will it affect the people and smaller organisations?
While ISPs are hailing the move, tech companies like Facebook and Google are suggesting that these sites would allow the online giants to play favourites and charge more from the customers by letting them access some websites at high-speeds and slowing down the speed for others. Pai’s move would also hurt small-scale enterprises and business innovations with limited funds to push their content on various networks.

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Most importantly, how will it affect you ?

As far as the people are concerned, this could mean that the Internet users could end up shelling more money for their data connection. They could be charged more for accessing certain services at high speeds based on the agreement between the ISP and the tech company.

If you are residing in India, this judgement will not affect you at all as FCC does not regulate Internet content in India. However, if you are residing in the US, FCC’s upcoming vote could have a significant impact on your monthly Internet bill.