Net neutrality: What is it?

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WAND)- On Friday, the Federal Communication Commission is set to vote on a plan to repeal 2015 regulations on internet service providers.

Included in those regulations is a theory called “net neutrality.” We asked UIS Communications Associate Professor Ann Strahle to explain what that is.

“Net neutrality is the idea, the theory, that all internet service providers, ISPs, should treat all internet traffic equally,” Strahle said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of content it is, that it is all distributed equally.”

In a statement calling for the repeal, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai argued that, for twenty years, the internet “thrived under a light-touch regulatory approach.”

“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet,” Pai wrote. “Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that customers can buy the service plan that’s best for them …”

Critics of the change argue that removing net neutrality means internet companies could cut deals with some customers to give them an unfair advantage over others. Several commentators have suggested, for example, that an internet provider could cut a deal with one video streaming service like Hulu to give them faster speeds than competitors like Netflix.

Other critics worry removing the requirement could put free speech at risk.

“If access to certain information is only available to those people who can pay more, then that can be seen as a limit to the freedom of speech or the freedom of the press and how people get their information,” Strahle said.

For an in-depth look at the debate over net neutrality, click here.

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