It’s almost impossible to tell who’s on what side of what kind of truth when it comes to Net Neutrality, although it seems the main-stream media is definitely giving Obama credit for setting it up and Trump credit for destroying it.
And you’re supposed to believe that it’s the END OF THE INTERNET if we let Trump’s FCC get away with it!
What they say it is
The media tells us that net neutrality is the only way to save the internet as we know it. That without restricting ISPs (internet service providers like Charter and Time Warner) from metering the traffic that goes across their networks, they will start charging us customers individually for Facebook, Netflix, and email a la carte and our speeds will otherwise slow down to a crawl because the ISPs are evil capitalists who are out to get us.
If you’re thinking “My, that’s quite a stretch” you are right. But along with the superfluous rhetoric, there is some truth to what is being said.
Without net neutrality regulation ISPs do have the ability to essentially “speed up” or “slow down” certain types of traffic going across their networks. Anti-trust and anti-competitive laws keep them from singling out providers like one ISP did with Vonage (who sued the ISP and won). But it is logical that with the congestion services like streaming video puts on networks, some ISPs may ask customers using this service a lot to pay a little extra; and those who do not use the service, to pay a little less. After all, it isn’t free for them to support this increase in priority traffic across their hardware.
What it actually is
Essentially, net neutrality tells ISPs that all traffic going across their network has to be treated exactly the same. They are not allowed to prioritize certain packets of data over others. That means, if I’m downloading the latest season of Narcos from Netflix to my tablet while the business next door is running their phones over an internet VOIP connection, and the network gets congested, the ISP isn’t allowed to prioritize the business’s phone quality (fast lane) over my video download (slow lane). They will both suffer equally. That’s not how the MSM puts it, per se, but that’s what it is.
Any network engineer will tell you that not all packets are equal. Even your home network router has packet prioritization built-in because it is necessary to maintain a smooth experience across the network. This especially applies to large networks such as the internet.
With or without net neutrality, when network congestion happens some or all of the traffic will have to be slowed down until the congestion is cleared.
What the real problem is
At the end of the day, no matter what side you are on the subject, net neutrality regulation will not keep ISPs from having to slow down traffic or charging more to maintain their infrastructure. It will only change in what ways they are allowed to do so.
The real problem is a lack of competition in a free market when it comes to ISPs. FCC studies show as much as 75% of the population in the US has access to only one provider for what they consider high-speed internet (25Mbps or more). This is definitely true where I live in Spartanburg, and I live in a nice subdivision close to the city! Which makes zero sense in a market where we have an unending and ever-growing amount of choices for basically every other facet of life.
97% of US consumers connect to the internet through one of five ISPs. The service areas of these five very rarely overlap in a sort of gentleman’s agreement not to have to compete with each other. And it’s government regulation in the broadcast and telecom industries that created this monopolization of markets (through licensing).
More government is not the answer; the free market is.
Network congestion causes the ISPs to have to meter traffic in order to navigate the congestion. The rapid pace at which consumers are getting choices for streaming services like TV (HBO Go, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube TV, etc), telephone (Vonage, 8×8, etc), and more has not only caused congestion on the ISP’s networks, but is taking money from their other primary businesses in telecom and broadcast. Net neutrality does nothing to force these companies to change their business models or improve their infrastructure. Only competition can do that.
Telecom and broadcast are dying business models anyways. The licensure for these services, limiting the number of providers per area, created the monopolistic monsters we are now dealing with. And at every turn, they use their lobbying money to stop any competition in other forms such as fiber optic.