I recently attended an event on net neutrality hosted by the Roosevelt Institute of Boston. The speaker was Daniel Lyons, a Boston College law professor, who was presenting on the subject of net neutrality.
According to the FCC, net neutrality “means consumers can go where they want, when they want” on the internet. What does this mean? Here is what I gleaned from Lyons…recognizing that he got into some legalise that went a bit over my head!
The focus of net neutrality is to ensure that your broadband provider does not have the power to unreasonably interfere with what information you get access to, either by denying access or prioritizing access of some content over other content for a fee, creating internet “fast lanes” or “slow lanes.”
Professor Lyons gave several helpful examples to illustrate the complexity of this issue that the FCC is grappling with. He essentially said that there is a tension between efficiency and fairness. Does some content have seemingly legitimate reason to be prioritized? What constitutes reasonable network management? For example, should a telemedicine application in which one surgeon is learning a procedure from another surgeon get delivered more quickly than Netflix? Or should all legal content be treated in the same way?
What happens if some content is free or “zero rated” in terms of using up your data plan while other content counts toward the cap on your data plan? What happens if a company sponsors or pays for a portion of your data in order to get greater visibility but other competitor companies don’t have that same opportunity?
By the end of the presentation my head was spinning a little bit, but I’m definitely glad that I attended. It seems like there are a lot more questions than answers out there.
The FCC’s ruling last February, which reclassified broadband internet as a “telecommunications service” in order to be able to enforce rules that prevent service providers from interfering with your internet access, is due to go into effect on June 12th.