The Student News Site of Malvern Preparatory School

Friar's Lantern

The Student News Site of Malvern Preparatory School

Friar's Lantern

The Student News Site of Malvern Preparatory School

Friar's Lantern

    Net Neutrality and You

    A world without Netflix might be closer than you think.

    If you follow news, media, or pop culture, chances are that you’ve heard some buzz about ‘internet freedom’ in the last few months.  The phrase ‘net neutrality’ is not just jargon – it is going to be a major issue for us as we move into college and adulthood.  Here’s a primer on why it matters.

    Currently, internet providers can’t control what you use or look at on the Internet. No organization or government can sanction off parts of the internet from their customers. This is, in simplest terms, net neutrality. But, thanks to a recent ruling by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the internet could lose this right forever.

    On Thursday, May 5, the FCC voted to further consider ‘paid priority,’ a concept that could radically change how we experience the internet. The proposal would give internet service providers like Comcast and Time Warner the right to charge websites for quality delivery of content. That means, for instance, that Facebook, Google, and your future internet startup might have to negotiate a business agreement with internet providers in order for users to access the sites effectively.

    In the last 3 years, the internet has been targeted by proposals like SOPA, DOMA, and CISPA, each of which are cases which had restrictions on the internet. Though most of these have been shut down thanks to public outcry, an all new threat, with no signs of stopping, has arose. You’ve guessed it: this threat is the FCC’s limitation of Net Neutrality.

    The battle against net neutrality is no new conflict. The FCC’s 2005 Broadband Policy stated that open internet has four core principles: 1) Users can access the lawful Internet content of their choice; 2) Users can run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement; 3) Users can connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network; 4) Competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.

    In 2010, the FCC passed the FCC Open Internet Order, which actively prevented cable companies from barring the usage of sites that threatened their business. Both of these acts were passed in the face of companies like Time Warner and Comcast, who have been fighting long and hard to suppress competing web-based services like Netflix. Between 2012-2013, America’s pay-TV industry lost 316,000 customers, along with the steady decrease that began in 2007. The majority of these unsubscriptions led to people switching over to Netflix, which shows how popular this new, cheaper service has become.

    But, in 2014, such cable companies could regain the upper hand.

    The FCC has always been responsible for regulating the internet in the US, but this does not always mean they are always on the side of free internet. Paid priority would require websites to negotiate with internet service providers in order provide customers access to sites.  Cable companies could limit access to sites like Netflix, YouTube, or even Facebook if they wanted to.

    The paid priority plan is not a final ruling.  It will be open for the public comment through September 10, so that the FCC can hear the arguments for and against it. You can comment at, or, if you’re old fashioned, write a letter to your local congressman in case this comes to another vote.

    In 2011, the United Nations declared that access to the internet is a human right. Sanctioning of parts of the internet is an attack on those rights. Though cable companies may not intend it, they are seriously limiting the freedom of their customers in trying to stifle competition. This proposal needs to be taken seriously since its consequences could be visible sooner than we think.


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