by Emily Engle
This past January, a major court decision removed the FCC’s (Federal Communications Commission) power to enforce the rules of “net neutrality,” the idea that the internet is open and equal for all users. And over the past few months, this decision has now turned into a proposal in front of the FCC: legislation that would allow internet service providers, ISPs, to manage internet traffic in “commercially reasonable” ways, i.e., without adhering to net neutrality.
This translates into ISPs being given the power to charge companies and consumers more for fast or faster internet, and especially, to create slow connections for those who choose not to pay. The proposal caused massive public backlash; over 3.7 million comments were submitted to the FCC on the topic. Of the first 800,000 comments from the public, less than 1% opposed enforcement of net neutrality.
The proposal’s opposition is arguing for equal treatment of all internet traffic; a form letter that many commenters signed stated that impeding internet traffic would “stifle free speech, limit consumer choice, and thwart innovation.” Net-neutrality advocacy group Free Press, too, wants the internet to be reclassified as a public utility so that the FCC can keep it open.
But many net-neutrality advocacy groups are not simply stopping at blocking this legislation – many are also working to extend the rights of net neutrality to mobile networks as well, which were exempted from protection under the original 2010 rules. Consumers largely support this push for protection though, as increasing percentages of Americans use only mobile networks to connect to the internet. However, ISPs are reluctant because they argue that mobile speeds depend on airwaves, which are finite and limited.