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What Is Net Neutrality?

Right now, when you jump on the internet, all traffic is treated equally. Whether you’re watching a movie on Netflix, scanning an email from Grandma or posting a quality article from Curiosity on Facebook, data is data. The government and your ISP can’t penalize or reward certain data from certain providers. That’s called “net neutrality.”

What’s At Stake?

What’s the big deal with an ISP interfering with the data it serves up? Without net neutrality, an ISP could:

  • Charge higher fees for internet services that consume more bandwidth.
  • “Throttle” (limit) how much data you can send or receive based on where the data is coming from.
  • Not let certain services ‘count’ against your data plans.

    Two Sides

     Internet Service Providers believe net neutrality raises costs for them and consumers. They believe they should be able to pass the cost for bandwidth and delivery of content onto content providers. In 2015, Netflix alone accounted for 37 percent of all internet traffic in North America. ISPs say that charging data-intensive websites more for higher-quality service would also allow them to upgrade their infrastructure to provide better overall service to consumers, especially to rural or low-income areas.

    Opponents say net neutrality is a free speech issue. ISPs could throttle traffic to websites that espouse differing viewpoints. By offering faster speeds to companies willing to pay, smaller voices could be drowned out by mega-corporations in the “fast lane.” It’s even possible ISPs could refuse to allow data from specific sites for a variety of reasons.

    Day of Action

    In May 2017, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted to overturn net neutrality rules. In response, many internet companies are planning a “Day of Action” on July 12. Huge tech firms like Amazon will join more than 170 organizations in “slowing down” their services to protest the proposed change. The protest is an attempt to simulate what could potentially happen to popular websites if net neutrality rules are scrapped. Many websites will show pop-ups or advertisements encouraging users to contact Congress or the FCC to voice support of the current net neutrality rules.

    Net neutrality has been an official U.S. policy since 2015. Regardless of any current decisions, it’s likely to be an ongoing topic for all countries around the world.

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