The Net Neutrality principle was originally coined and defined by Columbia Law school professor, Tim Wu in 2003. The principle is based on the concept that the Internet should be ‘open’, permitting data to flow freely without special consideration of the endpoints, namely the sender and receiver, and without consideration of the endpoints’ platforms, applications or equipment.
Without Net Neutrality, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can filter content or throttle speed from ‘not-in-network’ content providers and competitors. For businesses, abusers steer consumers away from their content or compel them to pay-to-play. For consumers, abusers limit access and induce providers, such as Netflix to, increase pass-along costs.
In recent years, the Net Neutrality principle has been linked to Net Neutrality rules as the Executive branch in Washington attempted to ensure a level playing field for all. The linkage and subsequent rules have become highly politicized and present yet another potent source of disagreement in Washington. The new Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, has signaled he intends to reverse and/or not enforce protection rules enacted during the Obama presidency. The FCC is overreaching its authority regardless of which party controls the Executive branch.
Consumers, small businesses, and large businesses alike should take notice. Net Neutrality as a guiding principle is congruent with the principles of an open and equality-based democracy. Note also however; as opponents of Net Neutrality rules counter, a heavy-laden set of regulations stifles business innovation, investment, and economic growth.
Neither the pure approach of Net Neutrality regulations favored by the Democrats nor the pure dismantlement of regulations approach favored by the Republicans are tenable in the modern age. The core problem stems from the fact that in the absence of a bipartisan atmosphere, the FCC and other forces are attempting to force the needle left and right to cope with an outdated Telecommunications Act of 1996. Lean too far left and we end up with stifling regulation which impede business investment and US economic growth. Lean too far right and we end up with a deeply concerning loss of consumer privacy where your data is owned, not by you, but by the public and private sector. Additionally, move too far right and hasten the growth of monolithic too-big-to-fail business entities which crowd out smaller business competition.
My basic tenets include:
- The Net Neutrality principle is central to a free and open democracy in the modern age
- The American people deserve considerable more control over their personal data; and restrictions for how data may be used by the public and private sectors
- Businesses, big and small, deserve an environment which promotes investment, growth, and fair-play
- Our federal government must work collaboratively to help our society nimbly adapt to an ever-changing digital world in the 21st century
- A bipartisan, light-touch, non-onerous set of commonsense rules need to be included within an overhaul of the outdated Telecommunications Act of 1996
What can you do? Contact your elected officials in Washington to encourage them to work together to craft and enact moderate, forward-thinking telecommunications legislation which, in turn, will help our country remain strong and committed to our core democratic principles.