Net Neutrality Cheat Sheet

CheatingOkay, so Net Neutrality can be very confusing. It’s a complicated issue that even experts have difficulty talking about in succinct clarity. Here’s your cheat sheet for terms you need to know about Net Neutrality.

1. FCC – The Federal Communication Commission. They regulate all the stuff you talk on or watch things through. They will decide Net Neutrality.

2. ISPs – Internet Service Providers. They’re the ones that bring you the Internet you know and love. They’re also the ones lobbying the hardest for no Net Neutrality so they can create Internet fast lanes.

3. Internet Fast Lanes – ISPs want to charge extra for faster speeds of the Internet. So, if Google wants to move at the same speed as Bing, they’ll have to pay extra, and vice-versa. It also might mean that Comcast and others could make deals with search engines like Bing and then throttle the speed of Google in order to drive their customers to Bing.

4. Internet Slow Lanes – Basically, exactly what you think. Since some traffic is moving faster because they’ve paid the extra price, others would be stuck in the slow lanes, behind that guy going 45 on the highway with his blinker on.

5. Open Internet – The basic idea behind Net Neutrality. Advocates say the Internet needs to remain open and free for anyone to use. It is the basis for the current culture of development and creation on the Internet. Basically, every tech company you can imagine supports the open internet. Seriously, it’s a lot.

6. Title II – Essentially, if the FCC wants to stop Internet fast lanes, they will need to reclassify the Internet itself. Changing ISPs to common carriers under Title II would allow for the FCC to regulate an open Internet. Without reclassification, the FCC does not have the authority to continue Net Neutrality in its current form.

7. Reclassification – So, in order for the Internet to be under Title II, the FCC has to reclassify what the Internet even is. This is reclassification, and it means ISPs have to follow the common carriers rules. Which are what other telecommunication folks, like phone service, have to adhere to.

8. Obamacare – Ted Cruz called Net Neutrality the Obamacare of the Internet. Although there is an argument to be made that Net Neutrality could lead to governmental regulations, basically everyone thought this was hyperbolic and false language.

9. Al Franken – Senator from Minnesota that really, really loves Net Neutrality. He’s called it the biggest free speech issue currently facing the country. He’s been fighting for Net Neutrality for years. He also was a writer for SNL and a comedian before he became a politician. This probably hurts his image for a lot of people.

10. Tom Wheeler – Current Chairman of the FCC. His opinion on the matter is shrouded in mystery, but he was a lobbyist for the cable industry. Some have theorized he is really a dingo.

Bonus: Dingo – A free ranging dog from Australia.

Double Bonus: Stuart Smalley – He’s good enough, he’s smart enough, and doggone it, people like him.

Why Net Neutrality Matters

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A free and open Internet is the defining trait of the current Internet culture. Supporters and opponents of Net Neutrality both agree on that. The argument comes over whether or not the government should regulate Net Neutrality or if the free market will solve the problem on its own.

On the figure on the left, one can see the way the Internet currently works. Companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and many many others cosigned a letter to the FCC about the importance of Net Neutrality.

In the letter, they argued that the current model of Internet has been the key to how countless innovations have come about. The letter, cosigned by 20 major tech companies and over 125 smaller tech companies, emphasized just how essential the free and open Internet is for both innovation and free speech.

“Over the past twenty years, American innovators have created countless Internet-based applications, content offerings, and services that are used around the world. These innovations have created enormous value for Internet users, fueled economic growth, and made our Internet companies global leaders. The innovation we have seen to date happened in a world without discrimination. An open Internet has also been a platform for free speech and opportunity for billions of users.”

The feelings of these tech companies is strong, and with obvious reason: they wouldn’t exist without this free and open Internet.

nn2 However, if the FCC and government does not implement a wide standing Net Neutrality policy, the Internet could look much more like the diagram to the right. In the case of an Internet not protected by Net Neutrality, the Internet Service Providers would be able to set the terms for Internet speeds.

Although there are certainly some companies that will be able to pay for faster speeds, like Google and Microsoft, these slow-lanes might cripple start-up companies. And although some of these bigger tech companies could afford any charges from ISPs, they still remember their roots were formed during the free and open period of the Internet.

Democratic Senator from Minnesota Al Franken has been one of the biggest advocates of Net Neutrality. In an editorial for the Huffington Post Franken called Net Neutrality as “the most important free speech issue of our time.”

This idea is one that Franken has been fighting for for years. Although Ted Cruz and Barack Obama have only recently weighed in to Net Neutrality fight, Franken has been around this fight for half a decade.

At SXSW in 2011, Franken called on the crowd to call their Representatives and Senators about the Net Neutrality issue.

“Let’s not sell out,” Franken said. “And let’s not let the government sell us out. Let’s fight for net neutrality. Let’s keep Austin weird. Let’s keep the Internet weird. Let’s keep the Internet free.”

Even when Ted Cruz made his recent arguments against Net Neutrality, it wasn’t on the side of ISP regulation. He held an iPhone in the air and said the world needed more innovations like it.

Cruz’s claim is that if the government regulates Net Neutrality, it will inevitably lead to more regulations and hindrances on the Internet.

The only major industries supporting Cruz’s position are telecom companies, who would benefit the most from an Internet without Net Neutrality. Critics have been quick to point out these allies and the amount of money they have donate to Cruz’s campaigns in the past.