Last Updated: December 21, 2017, 3:54 pm

Net neutrality difficult to grasp


My head has been spinning, and I’ve started to question my ability to logically deduce information, and, all of this because I’ve been researching net neutrality.

Net neutrality has been packaged with a name that makes the issue sound simple, but almost nobody really understands it. I’ve talked to techies and spent hour after hour online trying to decipher the regulations that the Federal Communications Commission voted into law Feb. 26.

The idea of net neutrality is fairly simple. Imagine a two-lane highway. As it stood, before the vote, both lanes were open, but Internet service providers could restrict speed or offer paid prioritization; in other words, ISPs could create Internet fast and slow lanes. What that means is information providers like Netflix who experience a lot of traffic and bandwidth usage could be hustled into paying more to avoid being bottlenecked and get bandwidth priority.

The FCC reclassified the Internet under Title II of the Communications act of 1936, amended in 1996, to protect against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization. This seems like a great idea. Now, everyone is equal, and as a consumer I can access information at whatever speed I pay for. However, that isn’t really the case.

Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao told journalists: “I have asked explicitly to the chairman of the FCC, ‘Are specialized services, fast lanes and quality of service forbidden or not?’ The answer is no, they are not forbidden. We understand that they will be there. Are they explicitly authorized? No, they are not.”

This is one reason why no one really understands the new net neutrality regulations. Another is the FCC has kept the documents that allegedly contain 300 pages of justifications for only eight pages of regulation confidential.

Lacking the facts to back up logical arguments, Americans have been left to speculate on the immediate and long-term effects of net neutrality.

Ron Woodland, associate professor of visual technologies, said he is worried about the possible “systematic abuse” of the FCC’s new regulatory powers over the Internet.

“This is a major shift,” Woodland said. “Allowing the government control of the Internet, which was our last place of wide-open free speech, becomes the new normal. And, the next thing we know there is another new normal – which is more limiting. At what point have we lost that free speech?”

On the other hand, Ridley Larsen, a junior computer science major from St. George, said he is completely in favor of the net neutrality regulations. There was speculation that without net neutrality people might have to start paying for services like Facebook because of paid prioritization.

“(Now), they won’t have to pay $10 a month for Facebook,” Ridley said. “I think it’s possible that Internet service might become metered, like power service where you pay for kilowatts per hour, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.”

I was raised in Utah, so I have a socialized skepticism of the government. When I see a law that is supposed to protect the consumer and freedom, whether digital or physical, my suspicion begins to peak. I would support net neutrality if it were only in place to protect against predatory business practices. However, with the FCC withholding the details of the new regulations, I must go the way of the conspiracy theorist and say no to net neutrality.