Geek Speak: Net Neutrality


What is net neutrality all about?

While the concept has been around since the inception of the internet, you might have not paid much attention until the recent media coverage.  Net neutrality is all about making sure internet networks are equally available to all legal content generators.

Why is it needed?

Many of the big Internet Service Providers (ISPs), such as Comcast and AT&T, have been accused of discriminating against some content by blocking or slowing speeds, while boosting the transmission speed for those who were willing to pay for prioritization. Recent allegations by Netflix against Comcast gained a lot of publicity, but after further data review, the fault may have been misdirected.

Why is it all abuzz now?

A recent vote by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was passed regarding the implementation of net neutrality rules, including restricting speed throttling and paid fast lanes.  The plan is to treat and regulate the internet like a public utility (such as water and electricity) to ensure equal access to all.

The goals of net neutrality are to "have legally sustainable rules to ensure that the Internet stays fast, fair and open," according to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

What happens next?

In the short term, you likely won’t notice any difference.  Longer term, you should be able to browse the websites of the bigger guys (like Facebook & Netflix) as quickly as you can pull up your favorite blog.  Many fear that this shift to government regulation will lead to higher broadband bills, slower broadband speeds, and less innovation.  Depending on how the finalized rules and regulations shake out, some people even believe there will be a shift away from traditional cable packages and even more emphasis on streaming services.

But it's never that easy...

Don't get too excited yet.  Court challenges from ISPs are expected to flood in following the release of the official rules.  Plus, there could be drastic changes to the plan depending on the outcome of our next presidential election.  Ay yai yai!

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