If you find yourself asking the above question, this post is for you.
As someone who used to own an Internet Service Provider and worked with the Internet for years before that, let me drop some knowledge on you about Net Neutrality. Contrary to what some would have you believe, Net Neutrality is not some new government intrusion on the previously free Internet, it is in fact the system under which the government created and nurtured the Internet in the first place. Back when the National Science Foundation funded the Internet backbone, Net Neutrality was a mandated rule… you couldn’t participate on the Internet unless you agreed to treat all traffic the same… no filtering or throttling based on who was sending the data packets or what they contain. Everyone got access to the ENTIRE Internet… not just the parts your provider chose to let you see. And those rules are what made the Internet massively successful. There were plenty of other competing network technologies, but none of them came with the Net Neutrality mandate, so they never really took off.
And even after the NSF funding was removed and we began to transition to a fully commercial Internet in the mid nineties, we mostly stuck with Net Neutrality largely because the FCC understood Internet Service Providers to be ‘common carriers’ and regulated to keep those rules in place. It wasn’t until the Bush administration and a reclassification away from common carrier status that the FCC began to treat ISPs as ‘content creators’ instead, allowing an erosion of Net Neutrality rules, with lots of nasty consequences like blocking of Netflix and other services, the creation of bandwidth caps, and other general badness for Internet customers. That trend was thankfully stopped by the Obama FCC when they reclassified the ISPs back to common carrier status to enforce Net Neutrality rules again.
But now under the new Trump FCC we have of course lurched back the other way. With the death of Net Neutrality, the way is cleared for ISPs to begin blocking and degrading traffic from competing service providers… so you will no longer have access to the entire Internet… only the parts that Comcast or AT&T or Verizon are willing to let you see. An Internet that was once an incubator for technology entrepreneurs will instead erect barriers to protect the markets of the entrenched monopolies. Free speech on the Internet will become a thing of the past.
That is what is at stake here. That is what Net Neutrality means.
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