After weeks of an intense media blitz and speculation spanning across political party lines, tomorrow morning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will decide on whether or not to repeal two-year old regulations placed by the Obama Administration, intended to preserve net-neutrality for internet users at all levels.
By definition ‘Net-neutrality’ in the context of the FCC ‘s decision, is defined as; “the idea, principle, or requirement that Internet service providers should or must treat all Internet data as the same regardless of its kind, source, or destination.”
Speculation has been primarily focused on what, if any, impact of overturning the regulations could be felt at the various levels of internet users; government, commercial and private, across the country.
Locally, the impact could be significant for private users, according to Lincoln County IT Administrator Davd Smith, speaking of the matter with a background of over 30 years of IT experience.
“The internet has always been net-neutral until President Obama’s adminstration put some measures in place to protect net-neutrality,” he said.
“I know that sounds like a contradiction but that in short, is what happened. President Obama was concerned of large Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) possibly restricting or throttling bandwidth and content for their customers. The measures put into place, prevents ISP’s from doing that. If these restrictions are overturned on Thursday, that could mean significant changes in the way we have come to know and use the internet.
“ISP’s could raise prices based on the content we as consumers want. For example, those who use apps or internet based sites for entertainment and television, such as Hulu or using a Roku device, could face higher prices than those who don’t. Or their bandwidth could be restricted. The FCC taking a look at things as they are now, stems from concerns by President Trump and his administration of these restrictions possibly hindering competition and free market enterprise on the internet.”
If the restrictions are overturned, which is speculated to occur tomorrow by 3-2 vote, Smith indicates the measure could in-turn spur competition for ISP’s such as Charter and Frontier Communications, on a local level.
“If the big ISP’s decide to start making changes in how they charge their customers, that could open the door for local ISP’s to form and compete with the big guys,” Smith adds.
“They could offer services and access to areas the big providers are restricting or charging more for. Competition could mean other options for obtaining internet service than we have now.”
“In the long-term, the face of the internet we know it could become more of a utility, than a free market enterprise.” Smith doesn’t expect much to change for local government, as their internet usage and traffic is already regulated via their own respective networks.
However as Keshia Mashak explains-Merrill Area Public Schools Director of Technology Integration- the current online learning environment for local students could face an uncertain future, if a repeal occurs tomorrow morning.
“When you go online, you have certain expectations as an internet user. As of right now, the regulations in place preserve the right to communicate freely online,” she adds.
“If the current regulations are repealed, it will have a definite impact on MAPS and our online learning environment. Repeal would mean ISP’s having the ability to determine what content is available online for our students. That will impact us from an educational standpoint. In education, we want our students to be introduced to the facts, anywhere anytime via the internet.”
In an effort to project what changes may take place, Mashak indicated the district has reached out to ISP’s to see what stance they are taking on the matter, but has yet to receive much feedback.
Tomorrow’s meeting of FCC chairman Ajit Pai-a Trump appointee last January- and four commissioners (2 Republican and 2 Democrat) is set for 9:30 AM Central time in Washington D.C