Published On: Mon, Apr 13th, 2015

Top 5 Wins In Net Neutrality So Far

What is net neutrality, and why should it matter to you? Net neutrality means a free and open Internet with equal access for all. Simply stated, it means that Internet providers should not allow certain websites to have priority over others. For example, it would prevent communications companies from striking deals that make certain files load faster or block certain websites.

With many industry lobbyists fighting against net neutrality, millions of Americans anxiously await a verdict on the future of the Internet. Fortunately, the fight for net neutrality includes a few major victories in its history.

photo Anonymous9000 via Flickr

photo Anonymous9000 via Flickr

November 2008: Obama Wins Presidential Election

In the mid 2000s, the net neutrality debate really started to heat up, as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began to see the implications of various rules and regulations already in place. As a result, the issue became a significant topic of the 2008 presidential election.

During the campaign, Barack Obama made it clear that his progressive technology policy agenda focused on protecting the openness of the Internet. The platform became an important part of his campaign for the presidency. When he won big in November, net neutrality advocates were confident they had the new Commander-in-Chief on their side.

December 2010: FCC Issues Open Internet Order

In December 2010, the FCC made a move that renewed many Americans’ confidence in the group’s ability to secure net neutrality. The FCC’s Open Internet Order didn’t signal a complete victory since it didn’t guarantee net neutrality. Rather, it displayed an effort to keep the Internet equally accessible for everyone. Unfortunately, the order didn’t actively prevent telecommunications providers from prioritizing certain content on the Web.

The lack of concrete answers on this issue would still not be solved for many more years, but it did mark the beginning of a more supportive and proactive FCC in the fight for net neutrality.

January 2012: Protests Against SOPA and PIPA

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) were two bills that posed a threat to net neutrality. To protest these proposed laws, over 100,000 websites limited or eliminated access to their content on January 18, 2012, including major sites like Google, Flickr and Reddit.

In some cities, supporters held physical protests as well. Millions of Internet users sent messages to Congress and/or signed petitions in support of net neutrality as a result of the protests.

In the days and weeks following the protests, many members of Congress began shifting their support in favor of net neutrality.

September 2014: Internet Slowdown Day

In another significant display of net neutrality support, thousands of websites participated in Internet Slowdown Day. This organized protest called for websites to show their support by showing the “loading” symbol on their site. The symbol served as a call to action for users to make their voices heard on the issue. As a result, over one million Internet users submitted comments to the FCC, most in strong support of net neutrality.

February 2015: FCC Classifies Broadband

Over the course of numerous court hearings and debates, it became clear that the FCC wouldn’t be able to enforce net neutrality without certain definitions in place. Consequently, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler determined a classification for broadband Internet.

Now, broadband is classified as a regulated transmissions service. This is the same classification DSL held in the 1990s, and it allows the FCC to regulate broadband under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act. Essentially, it allows the FCC to lay down the law to internet service providers about what they can and can’t do. Though it doesn’t guarantee net neutrality, this move marks perhaps the most significant step towards it so far.

The war for net neutrality is not over yet; however, a number of important wins along the way give supporters hope. It’s up to the FCC to enforce its new classification of broadband and ensure that the internet remains an open place for communication, expression, and innovation.

Guest Post: Tommy Wyler

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