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  • 06Apr

    The 'Net Neutrality' Discussion

    From npr

    Tuesday’s federal appeals court decision that tossed out a Federal Communications Commission order could have an impact far beyond “net neutrality.”

    So we asked Susan Crawford to break it down for us. Crawford is a net-neutrality advocate and a University of Michigan law professor. Last year, she served as President Obama’s special assistant for science, technology and Internet policy.

    What is net neutrality?

    Net neutrality is about preventing high-speed Internet providers from discriminating against certain sorts of providers or users of their network. For a hundred years, we’ve treated communications providers like sidewalks. The sidewalks can’t choose between different walkers and have them travel at different speeds.

    What do companies like Comcast have against regulations demanding net neutrality?

    They will argue that this is a competitive marketplace. They say, we’re a private business and you can’t use old-fashioned rules to force us to provide the same service to everybody — that more regulation means less investment.

    And the U.S. is already slipping to 15th or 16th place among developed nations with respect to adoption of high-speed access.

    What are the broader implications of this decision?

    Back in 2002, the FCC started to deregulate providers of high-speed Internet access. It’s sort of a house of cards. The entire legal direction that they took — saying, we can regulate these people even if we’ve taken them out of the common carriage part of the telecommunications act — that arguably is not going to work. The court has said that that entire direction is legally unsound.

    That means the FCC, in order to do things like protect consumer privacy, would need to point to some other title of the act.

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