Until a recent court ruling, the FCC (the government organization that regulates communications including TV, telephone service and internet service providers) prevented internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon from blocking or slowing content transported over their lines. Content creators, such as YouTube, Wikipedia, or bloggers, have a basic guarantee: they can reach their users without worrying about being blocked, harassed, or forced to pay an upcharge by the carrier.
The rule originally applied to long-distance voice calls. Over time it has come to be applied to the Internet and known as net neutrality, sometimes called “Internet freedom” or “Internet openness”
The ruling last week overturned net neutrality and has ruffled feathers all over the online world. Particularly with musicians, filmmakers and others who stream music and video or have high bandwidth needs.
Potentially, the new ruling means your Internet company could block access to Pandora, Spotify, or any other website. Some have gone as far as to sugget that the internet could potentially become like cable TV – you don’t control what you can access or what you pay. Casey Rae, interim executive director at the Future of Music Coalition, said in a statement, “It has never been more important to have basic rules of the road preventing ISPs [internet service providers] from blocking content delivered over the Internet, regardless of how users connect. Thousands of musicians and independent labels are already on record in support of a level online playing field as part of FMC’s Rock the Net campaign.” Musicians supporting net neutrality include R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Death Cab for Cutie, Kathleen Hanna, and thousands of others who have signed on for the Future of Music Coalition’s Rock the Net campaign for online openness.
A minority of internet users have a differing viewpoint. Bob Ohlsson posted a different view on the Professional Recording Workshop forum, “The internet is a parallel and not a serial system. More pipes means more bandwidth but “net neutrality” doesn’t address that… It’s a good thing because it will increase competition for high bandwidth service which will bring costs down. As it is, nothing stops peripheral networking from offering much faster long distance internet connections but it’s very expensive. Last leg ISPs haven’t been allowed to compete for that market in the U.S.”
What’s your opinion on the net neutrality ruling? Let us know in the comments.
Looking for more information?
- This piece in the New Yorker gives a clear explanation of the ruling.
- Read the statement from the Future of Music Coalition here.
- This essay from Slate also gives background into the court decision.