Net Neutrality and Privacy: The Pros and Cons of Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality

As the 2020 US Presidential Elections draw close, we thought it to be a good idea to refresh a little on net neutrality (especially since the two main candidates don’t seem to be paying any attention to it in their campaigns). 

The net neutrality or Open Internet debate has been going on for over a decade. Here, we’ll cover what is net neutrality, what it represents, it’s history, what are the pros and cons of net neutrality and finally is net neutrality going away.

What is Net Neutrality? A Net Neutrality History Lesson

Since the 1990s, network users and Internet service providers have been at odds as to how ISPs treat data on the Internet and whether ISPs treat all Internet data equal or are some data “more equal than other”, to borrow a phrase from Orwell’s Animal Farm.

At the core of net neutrality is the idea that ISPs have no right to prioritize one website or source over another. That certainly sounds like a good goal, but as you’ll see it’s not that simple and net neutrality has its pros and cons.

The biggest issue here is whether ISPs should be classified as Title 1 “Information Services” or Title 2 “Common Carrier Services”. The former would give the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) little control over ISPs, whereas the latter would give FCCs more control over them.

But before we get into those, let’s take a quick history lesson on net neutrality:

  • 2007 – Senator Barack Obama pledges support for net neutrality and open Internet if he is elected as President, saying:

“I am a strong supporter of net neutrality. What you’ve been seeing is some lobbying that says that the servers and the various portals through which you’re getting information over the Internet should be able to be gatekeepers and to charge different rates to different websites. And that I think destroys one of the best things about the Internet, which is that there is this incredible equality there.”

  • 2010 – The FCC introduces net neutrality protections preventing ISPs from imposing limits on users or blocking websites.
  • 2011 – Verizon files a federal lawsuit to overturn the FCC’s order.
  • January, 2014 – As a result of a 3-year long lobbying campaign and a number of net neutrality lawsuits, the Federal Appeals Court strikes down the FCC’s rule from 2010.
  • January, 2014 – A petition is created to “Restore Net Neutrality By Directing the FCC to Classify Internet Providers as ‘Common Carriers’, signed by 105,572 people.
  • 2015 – FCC votes for stronger net neutrality rules and to keep the Internet free and open.
  • 2016 – Federal Appeals Court upholds the FCC’s 2015 strong net neutrality rule.
  • 2017 – New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposes that ISPs are re-classified as Title 1 services.
  • 2018 – FCC votes to repeal the 2015 Open Internet Order despite over 20 million comments against doing so to the FCC. 
  • 2019 – Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that FCC can reclassify ISPs as Title 1 or 2 and that the FCC can’t block local-level or state-level net neutrality rules.

What are the Pros and Cons of Net Neutrality?

Now that we had a quick look at the history of net neutrality, it’s time to reopen this can of worms and ask “what are the pros and cons of net neutrality?” 

Here are the biggest net neutrality pros and cons:

Net Neutrality Pros:

  1. Freedom of expression. Net neutrality prevents ISPs from arbitrarily blocking online content and entire websites, thus protecting free speech. This does not include illegal content, which remains the domain of law enforcement agencies.
  2. Net neutrality prevents ISPs from charging an extra cost for content. This protects the consumers who would be the first to suffer if the ISPs are allowed to speed up, slow down, or charge an additional fee for content like faster video streaming.
  3.  A level playing field for all. Net neutrality creates a more level field for all players and does not favor one ISP over the other or ISPs over consumers. This prevents ISPs from acting as “gatekeepers” and putting newer and smaller online companies at a disadvantage.

Net Neutrality Cons:

  1. It becomes harder for ISPs to invest in new infrastructure. Since ISPs can no longer charge for many of their services, their source of income significantly diminishes and with it the ability to invest in new infrastructure.
  2. ISPs will have a harder time finding and removing dangerous and illegal online content. While net neutrality, on one hand, prevents ISPs from blocking and removing online content and that way preserving free speech, it also makes it harder for ISPs to block and remove dangerous content as well. 
  3. Who is paying for data usage? Another issue of net neutrality is who will be paying for data usage? For example, if you’re using Netflix, you pay the same amount for the service, regardless of how much data you use. It’s all the same if you watch one movie a week or binge-watch 5-6 episodes of a TV show per day. That puts the provider at a severe disadvantage.

Conclusion

Is net neutrality a good or bad thing? We don’t know 100% as the answer is not that black and white. There are certainly points to both sides, as you could see here. 

As strong proponents of freedom of speech, we at CTemplar are strong proponents of a free and open Internet, especially preventing large Internet companies, email providers and ISPs from in any way or form accessing your data or tracking you. This is why we created CTemplar: Armored Email to allow you to send and receive emails without fear that someone will read them that is not meant to.

Join us in restoring your privacy today! Sign up for CTemplar.