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Return to Net Neutrality - What to know about the current fight. |

Nate Holton - Sunday, March 10, 2019

Net neutrality is probably something that you have heard a lot about lately, but there are still a lot of people who are uncertain about what net neutrality is. Net neutrality was a term that was coined by Tim Wu, a Columbia University media law professor. The primary idea of net neutrality is that internet service providers (ISPs) treat internet usage equally, without discriminating against or charging more based on factors like the content or user. Without net neutrality, ISPs can prioritize specific traffic, meter internet usage, and even block traffic. ISPs can even charge more for various tiers of traffic.

Ever since Obama-era regulations, this has been a hot topic. Since President Trump took office, one item on his policy agenda was to end these regulations on net neutrality. The FCC ended the regulations, causing a new debate on this topic. The newly Democrat-controlled House has just recently introduced a bill known as the “Save the Internet Act”, which would simply reinstate the Obama-era net neutrality rules. The bill itself is only 3 pages long, simply just nullifying the FCC’s repeal of the regulations as well as preventing the FCC from repealing these rules at any time in the future.

The Democrats believe that this bill is something that the people wanted, arguing that this bill represents the will of the people. Their hope is that the 82% of Republicans that want this bill will help ensure the success of this bill. However, it is important to know that there is an uphill battle as the bill gets to the Senate. When the bill comes up to the vote, getting a simple majority in the Senate will be difficult since the Democrats lost 2 seats in the Senate during the recent election. When they passed the CRA resolution (Congressional Review Act), they were able to get 3 Republican senators to vote with them, easily giving them the simple majority that they need.

Republicans have long stated that they wanted a bill that ensures net neutrality, but their plan wasn’t as strong as the rules that the FCC repealed, though they supported the repeal. Ajit Pai argues against the repeal was a good thing. In a response to the “Save the Internet Act”, Pai states that the repeal should stay in place because it has resulted the private institutions investing in fiber and an increase in internet speeds by 36%. It is important to note that there is no actual evidence to support this, with reports showing that the increase in internet speeds has continued at the same pace is it was during the Obama administration. Some of these projects that have shown growth began under the Obama-era of net neutrality.

There is still a long way to go in restoring net neutrality. If this bill doesn’t pass, there will be a fight to 2020 with the hope that there will be fresh faces in the Senate that will get a similar bill passed. Until then, this will be an interesting battle to watch play out.    

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