Net Neutrality: What Was All The Fuss About? - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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Net Neutrality: What Was All The Fuss About?

Net Neutrality: What Was All The Fuss About?

On December 14th, 2017, a majority of FCC commissioners voted to repeal the net neutrality rules promulgated by the Obama administration.1 In the days surrounding the vote, the media was fixated on net neutrality. It seemed like the term net neutrality was plastered on every newspaper, magazine, and website.2 Despite the constant coverage, many ordinary citizens still do not exactly know what net neutrality means.

The FCC promulgated the first iteration of Net Neutrality in 2010.3 The 2010 Open Internet Order proscribed “four core principles: transparency, no blocking, no unreasonable discrimination, and reasonable network management.”4 However, in 2014 the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down the 2010 order in Verizon v. FCC.5 Thus, the FCC had to start over. In 2014, the FCC began a new rulemaking process that resulted in the 2015 net neutrality rules.

The 2014 net neutrality order had three main rules: no blocking,6 no throttling,7 and no paid prioritization.8. Each of these rules ensured that all internet users had equal access to the same lawful internet content, regardless of their internet service provider (ISP).9

The no-blocking rule prohibited ISPs from blocking access to lawful internet content, including competitors’ sites and content.10 For example, the rule prohibited Comcast, an internet service provider and the owner of NBC, from restricting access to NBC content to only its customers, or blocking its customers from viewing content from competitors like ABC. Thus, the rule secured equal access, regardless of ISP, to all lawful internet content.

The no-throttling rule ensured that an ISP could not degrade access to lawful internet content.11 Throttling occurs when an ISP slows down a user’s connection so drastically that it renders web content inaccessible.12 ISPs may have an incentive to throttle certain webpages. For example, an ISP could throttle access speeds to Netflix. This degrading of download speed would prevent Netflix’s videos from loading and thus essentially prevent access to Netflix. Since throttling deals with speed, any website can be rendered inaccessible by it regardless of its content. Hence, prohibiting throttling ensures that all internet users have equal access to content.

Prohibiting paid prioritization prevents ISPs from creating fast lanes for edge, or content, providers in return for payment.13 In short, this rule prevented ISPs from charging edge providers, like YouTube, for faster access to its customers. Simply put, this rule prevents unfair competition. Paid prioritization allows powerful edge providers to use their purchase power to make user access to their content easier, while simultaneously making it difficult for users to access less powerful edge providers’ (think start-ups) content. Thus, this rule also ensures all internet users have equal access to online content.

As motioned previously, the FCC repealed these three rules on December 14th, 2017.14 Despite the FCC repealing these rules, the fight for net neutrality is far from over. A number of states have proposed legislation banning ISPs that do not conform to these three rules.15 Additionally, legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives to pass a statute that embodies these three rules.16. While these actions are a step towards restoring net neutrality, its ultimate fate is still unknown.

  1. Restoring Internet Freedom, 82 Fed. Reg. 25,569 (adopted Dec. 14, 2017) (to be codified at 47 C.F.R. pt. 8, 20).

  2. Keith Collins, Why Net Neutrality Was Repealed and How It Affects You, N.Y. Times (Dec. 14, 2017), [].

  3. 47 C.F.R. § 8. (2011) (struck down by Verizon v. F.C.C., 740 F.3d 623 (D.C. Cir. 2014).

  4. Id.

  5. Verizon v. F.C.C., 740 F.3d 623 (D.C. Cir. 2014).

  6. 47 C.F.R. § 8.5 (2017) (repealed 2017).

  7. 47 C.F.R. § 8.7 (2017) (repealed 2017).

  8. 47 C.F.R. § 8.9 (2017) (repealed 2017).

  9. See generally, 47 C.F.R. § 8 (2017) (Repealed 2017).

  10. 47 C.F.R. § 8.5 (2017) (repealed 2017).

  11. 47 C.F.R. § 8.7 (2017) (repealed 2017).

  12. Id.

  13. 47 C.F.R. § 8.9 (2017) (repealed 2017).

  14. Restoring Internet Freedom, 82 Fed. Reg. 25,569 (adopted Dec. 14, 2017) (to be codified at 47 C.F.R. pt. 8, 20).

  15. Cecilia Kang, States Push Back After Net Neutrality Repeal, N.Y. Times (Jan. 11, 2018), [].

  16. Net Neutrality Bill, H.R. 4585, 115th Cong. (2017).

Leo Korman

Leo Korman is a second year law student at Fordham University School of Law and a staff member of the Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal. Leo is friends with his grandmother on Facebook.