Point/Counterpoint: Did the FCC overstep with net neutrality rules?

BY DI STAFF | MARCH 02, 2015 5:00 AM

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On Feb. 26, the Federal Communications Commission approved a set of rules to ban “paid prioritization” from Internet service providers. Was this a good move?

Keep the playing field level

The Supreme Court should allow the FCC to enforce net neutrality. Executive powers don’t need to grow by any means, but maintaining net neutrality online is equivalent to the federal government preventing monopolies. It just makes sense.

The equal treatment of data keeps the cost of entry for new businesses low. Without this effect, the world wouldn’t have Facebook or Google. Entrepreneurs rely on the web being a fair market to thrive. Doing away with net neutrality only concentrates power to those who can already afford it.

Money has been flowing into Congress from telecommunication companies intent on influencing the fate of net neutrality. Greg Walden, R-Ore., has received $109,250. Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, has received $75,450. Even with these incentives to fight net neutrality, it is becoming increasingly difficult for congressmen to do so. Both Google and Verizon have come out saying no matter what the ruling on net neutrality by the FCC or the Supreme Court, their spending and investment strategies will not change. The idea that net neutrality stifles growth, then, is a false one.

The Supreme Court should accept the FCC’s new set of rules enforcing net neutrality. In January 2014, a federal appeals court shot down the FCC: Its plan was unrefined and rushed, justices said.

This time around, however, the rules have taken into account the judgment and recommendations on how the rules should be reformed. With a year to reformulate and adjust, the new rules are ready.

Net neutrality is a concept as old as the web itself; it is inherent. Corporate control over speed and content would give power over information to major corporations, robbing the web of its grass-roots power.

Doing away with net neutrality would be like charging for different sections of a library, with a corporation deciding what costs the most or least. Then, when you’ve picked out a book, the library decides how fast you can read unless you pay even more. It is ludicrous, and it wouldn’t be contentious if the physical representation played itself out. Because of the web’s ethereal nature, opponents of net neutrality have been banking on the vagueness of the term and the confusion surrounding it. If we educate ourselves, it becomes clear that net neutrality is the way to an equitable, profitable future.

Jacob Prall

The FCC’s power grab

The FCC upheld net neutrality, a power grab affecting more than 300 million Americans that use the Internet. The law gives the FCC the authority to regulate the Internet with the same ancient framework that was used for telephone networks in 1934.

Supporters are calling it a “fix,” but the rule of thumb has always been “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Who really has a problem with their Internet today? It sounds a lot like, “if you want your Internet, you can keep your Internet.”

Broadband Internet works a lot like a highway. Too many cars going the same way creates traffic or slow Internet. Broadband providers saw that consumers were visiting popular sites such as Netflix, which created traffic that was difficult to alleviate. Instead of passing that cost on to the consumer, some broadband providers charged these firms a fee for prioritized service. In essence, they created an expressway for them and charged a toll. Net neutrality makes this illegal.

Of course, the large companies are cheering the fact that they will no longer have to pay the bill. Consumers, however, will suffer in the long term.

The Internet experience for most users won’t get faster. Because the FCC has outlawed these expressways, providers now have to develop more lanes in their original highways. As broadband providers adjust to the regulations, they will have less money for investment in new technology and faster Internet. The colossal improvements that we have seen in Internet networks will stagnate.

This is why business moguls such as Mark Cuban are passionate in their opposition.

Futuristic technologies will also be set back. Companies working on developing self-driving cars such as Nokia are complaining that the new law prevents cars from getting the services they need.

What is most dangerous in the FCC’s ruling is the precedent. The Internet is one of the most utilized forums of free speech and has prospered primarily due to its unregulated nature. The government now has a channel for control.

Even if you believe the FCC won’t abuse its power, the government has a horrendous record in the tech industry. It managed to spend more money than LinkedIn and Spotify creating a health-care website that embarrassingly didn’t work. To trust them to efficiently regulate the Internet is preposterous.

Fortunately, lawsuits and congressional investigations may prevent the ruling from ever taking effect. Nonetheless, Americans should remain vigilant of this intrusive takeover under the guise of “neutrality.”

Michael Korobov

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