Net Neutrality: What does it mean for you?

Net Neutrality is defined here as: “the practice that all high speed internet should be treated the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.” Essentially, Net Neutrality is the principle that whatever/whenever you want to stream or access online content, your provider cannot alter your service or favor anyone else over you.

“High speed internet can be classified as a utility” said a federal court last Tuesday in a ruling decision that will allow for stricter policing of ISP’s (Internet Service Providers).  This decision set in stone the government’s view that internet is as essential as power, water and phone service.  A service that should be made available to all Americans, and not considered a luxury.

This decision came from a three-judge panel at the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and won 2-to-1.  This ruling prohibits ISPs from blocking and/or slowing down internet to its end users. This ruling put an end to a large legal battle that started in early 2015 as ISP’s attempted to overturn the ruling that internet is a utility.  AT&T immediately said they would appeal this ruling and continue to fight,  Comcast, Verizon, and other ISPs are likely to follow.

On the flip side, companies such as Google and Netflix have stepped up to the plate as champions for net neutrality. These companies argue that by not abiding by the principles of net neutrality,  ISPs will diminish the quality of downloads and streams, forcing unfair price hikes on web based companies, or worse,  promoting their own services by unfairly giving their own supported products more bandwidth.

The two judges that ruled in the favor of the F.C.C., emphasized how important the internet is an an essential means of communication in this day and age.  Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the F.C.C., said “After a decade of debate and legal battles, today’s ruling affirms the commission’s ability to enforce the strongest possible internet protections — both on fixed and mobile networks — that will ensure the internet remains open, now and in the future.”

While the fight for a free and open internet is not over, this was a victory and another step in the right direction for the internet and American policy as a whole.