Katelyn Chostner, Editor-in-Chief
On the first Wednesday of each month The Current hosts a “What’s Current Wednesdays” to open the floor to faculty, staff and students at The University of Missouri–St. Louis. Director of Business Collaboration and Assistant Teaching Professor of Digital and Social Media Marketing in the College of Business Administration Dr. Perry Drake spoke to the attendees about the facts of net neutrality.
Net neutrality principles were introduced in 2005 by the Federal Communications Commission so that internet service providers would have to allow access to all of their content without blocking or discriminating certain applications. In 2015, broadband was classified as a common carrier under the Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 which meant that these larger broadband internet service providers could be regulated.
Eventually, in December 2017, net neutrality was challenged by newly appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Net neutrality was repealed by the FCC with a vote that ended in 3-2. These repeals did not take effect until June 2018 which ended net neutrality in the United States.
Drake proposed that people need to decide if the internet should be treated as a commodity or a utility.
“Utilities, while still run by private companies, are heavily regulated and their services are given out evenly to all customers. Commodities are subject to irregulatory [sic] pressure, but their pricing and availability is governed more by the powers of supply and demand,” said Drake.
The popular opinion on net neutrality is that it should be a utility because it is something that mostly everyone uses. But the fact is that, if it were a utility, how would internet service providers be able to afford something heavily regulated when it already has so much money poured into it? People are also concerned that since net neutrality’s repeal it will cause creativity and freedom to express to be suppressed.
Before net neutrality was repealed, the government looked at the Title II act as something that would cause many hurdles for internet service providers. Drake mentioned that there are many different pros and cons to the net neutrality repeals and that it is difficult to come to a right or wrong decision disregarding if people are in favor of larger broadband networks or not.
Some reasons for the passing of net neutrality and the Title II act were because large companies were charged with blocking certain access for specific users.
According to Drake, “Apple was actually charged with blocking iPhone from being able to Skype at the request of AT&T. … So, the government stepped in, put its foot down and stopped them.”
There are other instances that companies were using their power to limit access to users, such as Comcast throttling peer-to-peer uploads for file sharing and Madison County River Communications company blocking their customers access to the rival service. Net neutrality helped solve these issues, but ever since the repeal, people have been waiting to see what will happen. The only reason net neutrality would remain a silent agreement between internet service providers and the public is that if the companies start to block usage, the public will be deterred from their services.