By Dave Ross
May 1, 2017
There’s a term we’ve heard a lot about over the last few years, yet few of us understand it very well. That term is “net neutrality.”
Since net neutrality is again under threat from the FCC under the Trump administration, I spoke to Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia University, to explain what it is and why we should care.
He’s a pretty good person to talk about this because he actually coined the term.
I asked off the bat: With a simple metaphor, what is net neutrality?
“I don’t think we need a metaphor, it’s pretty simple,” Wu said. “It just says your cable company, when they sell you [Internet service], has to let you reach the whole Internet. They can’t sort of block some sites or speed up some sites and slow down others. They are a public utility and they give you the Internet without discriminating between sites.”
It’s easy to assume the Internet is this giant spigot – you’re either tapped into it or you’re not. That’s not the case in places like China, where huge parts of the Internet are blocked off, or certain parts are sped up or slowed down.
“We have this more or less open Internet, and that is something that you have to fight to preserve,” Wu said. “It was designed that way back in the 70s but keeping it that way, like a public commons, actually takes a lot of work.”
That’s where we are currently, and it’s been the law one way or another since the Bush administration and was most recently reenacted under Obama. It has been threatened by the new FCC chairperson, Ajit Pai.
Wu calls Trump’s FCC a “classic insider” who previously worked for a phone company and is not serving the people.
“It is really the swamp personified, and the only people who can support this kind of repeal of net neutrality are people who have been in the swamp so long, they don’t notice the stench anymore,” Wu said.
So how would my Internet change if they did away with net neutrality? Wu says abandoning net neutrality means more money out of your pocket.
“Your bills go up, I think that’s the bottom line here,” he said. “One way or another, the more power cable and phone companies get, they convert it into your bills going up.”