by Milena Cinosi
According to the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), the Internet “is the fastest deploying technology in world history. It's a 21st Century engine of innovation that provides an open platform for entrepreneurs, visionaries and kids in their garages to follow their dreams.”
However, some wonder if it is open to everybody. As a matter of fact, this has been a controversial topic where companies, associations and governments meet without being able to find a consensus. On , the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the new Net Neutrality Act; its main rules include the banning of blocking, throttling or paid prioritization. This means that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will not be able to favor or block sites based on payments or business agreements. Rather, the user will be able to access any site he chooses. The act also puts an emphasis on ISP transparency; this gives the FCC the ability to force Internet Service Provider’s to publish real internet speeds.
But the agency has also reclassified the internet as a common carrier under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. This would allow the FCC to have a stronger hold on the Internet, as it has on cell phone communications. According to the NCTA, this “will increase consumer costs, slow investment and innovation and cause years of uncertainty.” Steve Pociask, president of the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research, agrees. On an opinion piece written for Forbes Magazine he said, “By reclassifying internet services as common carrier telecommunications services, states that tax the tangible property and equipment of public utilities and regulated telecommunications services can now tax the property of broadband service providers. Public utilities are taxed at a much higher rate than other property taxes, which means that broadband costs and prices will increase with states never having to pursue the more challenging course of securing legislative change.”
There are also different activists groups that are pressuring Congress to overturn the agency’s actions, one example is the Republican activist group, American Commitment. They say that the FCC has reduced the internet to a “public utility.” In order to protest against these rules of “imposing sweeping new taxes and destroying private investment, competition and innovation while putting bureaucrats firmly in control”, they sent a flood of 1.6 million emails to several Congressmen, encouraging them to go against the FCC’s rules. As a response, Congress has remained silent.
But no tax has been applied yet, and all these fears may be unfunded. The truth is that companies like Comcast were and are still, to an extent, compromising the ability of their users to choose the content they consume. Wouldn’t you like to have the best deal and stream your favorite shows with whichever company you choose? The FCC is trying to protect your right to do so. Sometimes, freedom comes with a price.