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The official student newspaper of the University of Houston-Clear Lake

FCC to vote on the fate of internet neutrality


On Dec. 14 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on whether the regulations for net neutrality will remain intact or if they will be removed.

Net neutrality is the principle that all internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all Internet data the same regardless of its subject, source or destination, and that no information should be given priority over others.

If the proposal to repeal existing net neutrality regulations passes, it will allow ISPs to charge users more for faster service and accessibility.

Net neutrality was previously challenged in 2015, but the FCC kept the existing rules in place with a 3-2 vote. Now, the Chairman of the FCC Ajit Pai wants to remove those regulations, and this time the policy to end net neutrality is predicted to pass with the two Republicans on the board expected to vote with Pai.

“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet,” Pai said in a press release. “Instead, the FCC would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them.”

Mark Buell, regional bureau director in North America for the Internet Society, supports net neutrality. Buell stated in the article “What net neutrality is and isn’t” that the Internet Society wants ISPs to provide people with access to the content that they desire no matter which companies support each other.

The Internet Society, founded by two of the “fathers of the Internet” Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, promotes “the open development, evolution and use of the internet for the benefit of all the people throughout the world.”

“What is needed is an approach to the open internet that upholds the core internet principles, provides market stability, a solution that puts consumers at the center and creates opportunity for the future,” Buell said in the article.

Companies that support net neutrality include Google, Amazon, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Online companies argue that changing the rules could give telecom companies the ability to control online information and entertainment services. Existing net neutrality rules prevent telecom companies from offering a wider selection of services at higher and/or lower prices. If net neutrality ends, telecom companies can have broadband providers block or slow access to rival companies or control service speeds after notifying customers. The customers will be charged to have speeds increase, smaller companies will be at a disadvantage, and private information can be shared.

“If it were to come to an end, all personal data on the Internet including your email, credit card numbers, account information, will become public and can be sold to third-party vendors,” said Ali Babar, information technology major who plans to go into Internet security. “In order to bypass this, many people in the U.S. are already getting VPNs (virtual private networks) and foreign proxy servers, which make it look like they are using internet in another country, so their information remains secure.”

Babar also stated that people would still be able to afford high-speed internet if they purchase VPNs.

Companies such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T are against net neutrality. They are in favor of removing government regulation stating telecom companies are not able to experiment with new business practices, blocking and slowing content is anti-competitive, and that the federal government currently micromanages the internet.

Net neutrality used to include the “common carrier” formula, which enforced public infrastructure and set regulations for the internet, as well as railroads and telephone lines.

“After the ‘common carrier’ idea ended a few decades ago, we saw shipping costs and shipping times drop, and now we rely on cheap shipping from internet sales via providers such as Amazon,” said Timothy B. Michael, associate professor of finance. “’Net neutrality’ is simply another way for politicians to stick their noses where they don’t belong, and where they don’t really understand the forces involved.”

In reaction to the Dec. 14 vote, Comcast posted on its website, “We do not block, slow down or discriminate against lawful content. We believe in full transparency in our customer policies. We are for sustainable and legally enforceable net neutrality protections for our customers.”

However, critics note that Comcast did not address payments for access to other companies, blocking or slowing down their services for money.

Pai said that the removal of net neutrality will allow for an Internet that will be open and free for the public; however, Diana Bowen, assistant professor of communication, is concerned that the way people get information is under threat due to the removal plan.

“I hope the federal administrative policy will carefully consider its mission and strategic goals, particularly Strategic Goal #2 of protecting the public interest,” Bowen said. “Students should stay up-to-date on this issue as it affects their daily internet habits.”