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Have you ever been frustrated at the slow internet speed, or experienced buffering while streaming a live ball game, or your favorite TV, Netflix, or Hulu show? We’ve all been there. In many cases, the slow speed is not intentional, but due to poor server configuration or high traffic providers are experiencing at a particular time. Now, imagine this has become the norm, because of government deregulation that now allows Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to dictate which customers get faster or slower traffic depending on how much customers pay for their services. Welcome to the network (net) neutrality debate!
To some, net neutrality may seem like just another new buzzword, but it is not a new concept. Back in the 1960s, AT&T had a monopoly of the phone industry, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had to step in so that market competition was fostered to give consumer more options, as well as lower prices.
Those in favor of net neutrality believe that ISPs and network providers should treat their customers (a.k.a. “traffic”) equally as they navigate to and from any web site, application, or device. Being “net-neutral” refers to ISPs not artificially slowing down, speeding up, throttling, or setting data limits for any resources the customer is trying to access through the ISP’s connection. Keep in mind, a “customer” in this context can refer to a consumer in their home, a business, or a government agency. In other words, proponents of net neutrality argue that ISPs should not be allowed to play favorites and allow online content providers (or content owned by the ISP’s parent company) preferential treatment over another, especially if one provider pays more than another for traffic. What does this all mean? Large private businesses with deep pockets could get faster internet while the rest of us watch the buffering icon spin.