What is Net Neutrality?

What is Net Neutrality?
(Source: RNN)

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Net Neutrality is a term you have probably seen on social media in the past week. But what does it mean to you?

"Net neutrality rules require ISP's, or internet service providers, to treat all content on the internet equally." said Agnieszka McPeak, associate professor of Law at the University of Toledo.

Currently to access the Internet, you have to pay an Internet Service Provider, or ISP like Time Warner's Spectrum service or AT&T.

And with current Net Neutrality regulations, once you pay, the ISP can not tell you what content you can or can't access. But that regulation would go away if the FCC votes down Net Neutrality.

"The reason internet service providers would like to see net neutrality to go away is because they want be more creative in how they structure their business, profit models, and in turn they can invest more in infrastructure," said McPeak.

One of the main reasons ISP's want net neutrality to go away is they say the majority of their data bandwidth is used for HD video streaming companies like Netflix, Hulu, or Youtube, and the ISP's want to be allowed to charge these companies more money.

But loosening those regulations also mean the ISP's could straight up block these companies as well.

Consumer groups also warn of ISP's potentially packaging websites together and charging extra to access them in a similar model to cable television.

"That is what the concern is, is the level of control an internet service provider can exert overt the content, the substantive content and data we see on the internet." McPeak said.

Most ISP's showed interest in charging internet companies with high traffic to pay extra money for a prioritized lane to ensure the fastest data possible. But with many small businesses online who wouldn't be able to afford that, the worry is eliminating the regulations would give an unfair advantage to large telecom companies.

"Our ability to freely engage in a marketplace of ideas and goods might be hindered if we don't treat ISP's as more traditional utilities or common carriers," said McPeak.

The FCC is set to vote on Net Neutrality on December 15th, but Congress does have the authority to supersede that vote.

Local northwest Ohio members of Congress have released official statements on Net Neutrality.

Bob Latta of Ohio's 5th District said:

"I'm a staunch believer in net neutrality principles such as no blocking, no throttling, and no paid prioritization. However, top-down regulation of the Internet is not the best way to ensure user access to content — in fact, it's counterproductive. Ultimately, the most effective path to providing certainty for consumers, providers, and businesses that rely on the Internet is to find common ground in Congress and pass legislation."

While Marcy Kaptur from Ohio's 9th district said:

"I have heard from citizens across Northern Ohio and they have made their voices clear – they support Net Neutrality and they support an internet that is open and free from overt meddling by big corporations to juice their profits. The internet is a foundation for job creation, education and information. We must protect its integrity."

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