How could net neutrality repeal affect you?

Matt DeYoung • Dec 18, 2017 at 8:00 AM

By now, you’ve heard that the Federal Communications Commission voted last week to repeal net neutrality.

What does that mean to you?

We asked Brian Wheeler, director of technology for Grand Haven Area Public Schools, to explain the possible ramifications. Here’s what he had to say:

“For the school, we use Charter cable. I live in Muskegon, and we use Comcast. The fear, now that they’ve gotten rid of the rules for net neutrality, is that Comcast could strike a deal with Netflix that will say, ‘With Netflix, we’re going to let it flow at the speed that it would normally flow — at normal speeds. But if someone’s using Amazon Prime, we’re going to cut the speed for those in half.’

“The laws right now, you can’t do that,” Wheeler continued. “The speed across the internet is the speed across the internet. You can’t pick favorites and say this is going to go faster, this is going to go slower. Without any rules, it gives that opportunity for them to be able to do that.”

Wheeler said there could eventually be an affect on Grand Haven schools, should one of the internet providers choose to strike a deal.

“If we’re on Charter and we’re using YouTube in a classroom, and Charter has a deal with Amazon, that they’re going to provide Amazon with a faster speed than YouTube, it could affect our classroom,” he explained. “Right now, everyone is saying they’re not going to take advantage of that, but that’s what the fear is — now we don’t have anything in place.”

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the internet’s guiding principle: It preserves our right to communicate freely online. Net neutrality means an internet that enables and protects free speech. It means that internet providers should provide us with open networks — and shouldn’t block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks.

At its core, net neutrality is about treating all content on the internet equally.

The theory behind the network neutrality principle is that a neutral network should be expected to deliver the most to a nation and the world economically, by serving as an innovation platform; and socially, by facilitating the widest variety of interactions between people. The internet aspires for neutrality in its original design.

The term was coined by a Columbia University media law professor, Tim Wu, in 2003, as an extension of the longstanding concept of a common carrier, which was used to describe the role of telephone systems.

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