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“Net neutrality” is the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) cannot provide selective access to content and applications on the Internet and access to all data should be treated equally. Selective access means that IPSs can discriminate and apply charges differentially based on the platform, IP address, data, protocols, means of communication and so on. Equal treatment means that access to data over the Internet (e-mails, files, digital videos or audio files) must be provided equally to all users.

The fight over net neutrality has set up something of a showdown between the large, tech companies (such as Google and Facebook) that want all potential consumers to have equal access to their services that are provided over the Internet on one side versus the large ISPs (such as AT&T, Verizon & Comcast) that want to be able to create boundaries to Internet access so that they can offer certain consumers higher speeds or select access to content and data. (For instance, Comcast, Madison River and AT&T were all found to be in violation of net neutrality because used to secretly slow down or restrict access to some of their consumers to certain data.) https://www.dailydot.com/layer8/net-neutrality-violations-history/

If this fight sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a re-do of a public debate that already took place. After much debate during the Obama era, the FCC came out in favor of net neutrality.

Now, the new Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Vardaraj Pai, a former attorney for Verizon, wants to eliminate the net neutrality. To effect this change, the FCC has proposed new rules meant to lessen significantly the current regulation of the ISPs. In the interest of government transparency (not really!), Chairman Pai has named his new proposal, which seeks give significant power back to ISPs and un-do the April 13, 2015 Net Neutrality Order, “Restoring Internet Freedom.”

Thus, once again the FCC is taking public comments regarding whether to roll back the net neutrality rules. In response, a nonprofit group in support of net neutrality recently organized a “Day of Action” to protest any rollback of the net neutrality rules. In the last 30 days, the FCC has received more than 7.5 million comments on its proposal.

There is good reason for anyone in business with even slight connection to the Internet that is not an ISP to be wary of the many facets of the Pai proposal that is geared towards reclassifying broadband access, giving back to market forces (read ISPs) the power to influence the Internet, or eliminating the bright-line rule that stops companies from slowing down, throttling or prioritizing data and Internet access.

Net neutrality is important because the Internet of today is like a highway of communication and those against net neutrality are trying to set up roadblocks to divert traffic away from their competitors and towards the services they are offering. The absence of net neutrality means less competition, less diversity of goods and services, and higher barriers to entry. Simply, it is bad for business, unless your business happens to be one of the large ISP providers.

Please let us know if you have any follow up questions on net neutrality. The FCC is still taking comments on its proposal. See https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/search/filings?proceedings_name=17-108&sort=date_disseminated,DESC