With many proposed changes currently being discussed regarding net neutrality and the FCC, the battlelines are forming. The phrase that the road to hell is paved with good intentions is a old proverb attributed to many sources.
There are so many discussions right now on proposed changes to net neutrality and the FCC, all full of good intentions, and most are as inviting as the road to hell.
I have been asked questions on Donald Trump overturning net neutrality and shutting down websites. There are two different and unrelated issues. Shutting down websites because you don't like what they have to say, or what they are selling is a completely different topic from net neutrality. There have been many proposed laws to control what content is allowed on the internet, and these laws have been for the most part, independent of the net neutrality debate, as we explain here in this discussion on Internet censorship.
Net Neutrality History
The control of the use of the internet will always be a battleground in the United States. It is very similar to the history of radio, the first form of mass communications. Since the very beginning of radio, the U.S. government has tried to control radio. The U.S. Government seized control of radio for the "good of the country" during WWI and seized all amateur radio. After WWI the government created the monopoly called the "Radio Trust" to manage the use of radio. The company RCA was basically a government created monopoly for the control of radio patents.
The FCC was later created to manage radio as it became more and more commercial. Although much has changed since 1934, a lot of the argument now going on regarding net neutrality is based on the premise of the Communications Act of 1934, in that the FCC has the power to manage internet access in the same way they have been managing telephone and radio since 1934.
In the first discussion of network neutrality in 2003, Tim Wu of Columbia University Law School saw the issue emerging issues of business and technology in his paper "Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination." Tim Wu wrote, "The promotion of network neutrality is no different than the challenge of promoting fair evolutionary competition in any privately owned environment, whether a telephone network, operating system, or even a retail store."
In 2005 the FCC would amend the Communications Act of 1934, "to ensure that providers of telecommunications for Internet access or Internet Protocol-enabled (IP-enabled) services are operated in a neutral manner." In their words, the FCC said they changed the rules "to ensure consumers benefit from the innovation that comes from competition."
What started the modern day ruckus was a complaint filed against the Comcast in 2007 by some customers claiming that Comcast was interfering with their use of peer-to-peer networking applications. The FCC ruled that Comcast's method of bandwidth management breached federal policy.
The most recent ruling establishing so called net neutrality was in December 2010, the Federal Communications Commission approved rules that would forbid internet service providers from blocking or slowing online services, or favor their own services at the expense of smaller rivals. The FCC has been in control of the American telecommunications highway system for many years, and so far has be able to maintain the status quo of net neutrality,
The fight for less government control
Many people fearful of net neutrality changes look at censorship issues and editorial control of the internet as part of the net neutrality debate. But there have been many proposed laws to control what content is allowed on the internet, and these laws have been for the most part, independent of the net neutrality debate.
A 2011 bill in the U.S. Senate bill known as PIPA (PROTECT IP Act) had people excited because it would give the government many powers to control "rogue websites." The 2011 House version of the bill was known as Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The 2011 bill was a follow up to a 2010 bill known as Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), which proposed creating an Internet blacklist of sites Americans weren’t allowed to visit.
Opponents of SOPA and PIPA claimed that requiring search engines to delete domain names violated the First Amendment and could begin a worldwide arms race of unprecedented Internet censorship. There were many protests objecting to more government control of the internet, citing concerns over possible damage to freedom of speech, innovation, and Internet integrity.
But now the battle cry is give us net neutrality, make sure all access is equal, which means more government control.
The paradox of net neutrality is that the freedom fighters that wanted the government to back off when it came to privacy issues are now asking for more government control. Net neutralityis not as simple as it sounds.
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