Net neutrality is the idea that Internet Service Providers must support all internet signals equally, regardless of their content. The most common violation of net neutrality involves “throttling” or delaying certain signals. In one of the first such instances, the Federal Communications Commision fined Madison River Communications $15,000 because it restricted access to Vonage, a competing internet phone service.
Under President Obama, the FCC defined the internet as a public utility, thus guaranteeing net neutrality. But in December 2017, new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai undid the Open Internet Order, clearing the way for a violation of net neutrality. In May 2018, the U.S. Senate voted narrowly to reinstate the net neutrality rule. But the reversal of deregulation faces a very steep uphill climb. THe measure must pass the GOP-dominated House and then President Trump, who appointed Mr. Pai, must sign it.
“Net neutrality” is more than a buzzword. It’s actually an umbrella term for several different content-neutral information delivery mechanisms.
1. Open Internet
As the name implies, this idea holds that there should be no barriers to internet traffic whatsoever. That includes neutral passage of signals (net neutrality), little or no censorship, and low entrance barriers. Most people agree that a reasonably free flow of information on the internet is a good thing.
In contrast, a “closed internet” is the exact opposite. Certain individuals, corporations, and/or government agencies dictate which signals reach a mass audience and which do not. Some of the more repressive countries in the world have an internet secret police that fills this role.
Ideally according to most, the U.S. system would have features of both an open and a closed system, but lean very much toward an open system. Some limits, censorship, and regulation are necessary, as long as they do not squelch the exchange of free ideas.
2. End-to-End Principle
This concept goes back to the earliest days of the internet in the 1980s. It focuses on the beginning and end points of any given signals. In this scheme, protocol features are limited to a performance optimization role. This principle allows allows reliability-based retransmissions but bans all other such interventions.
Because of that dynamic, many people view the end-to-end principle as the direct forerunner of the modern FCC net neutrality rule.
3. Dumb Pipe
This version of net neutrality focuses solely on the infrastructure. It’s modeled after the “dumb pipes” that carry municipal water. An internet “dumb network” gives equal attention to all signals regardless of content, just like dumb pipes simply transport water from one place to another.
Some people who dial their phones during natural disasters get busy signals. The phone network commits its limited capacity to 9-1-1 calls. So, the theory goes, if an internet network is over-provisioned, there will be no need for signal and data selection or manipulation. Observers believe that the over-provisioning will carry over to other parts of the network and obviate the need for throttling and other net neutrality violations.
5. Traffic Shaping
Instead of the signals or the infrastructure, traffic shaping focuses on decreased internet response times to improve performance. IT often relies on complex criteria, like generic cell rate algorithm, to control the internet traffic flow.
Contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC today if you have questions about your legal rights to a clean and consistent internet signal.