Since the Internet stepped onto the scene and into many households, it has been widely used as an unbridled source of information, entertainment, communication, and much more.  The Internet as we know it may change today as the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prepares to approve the controversial net neutrality rules proposed by its chairman, Julius Genachowski.  Here are four things you need to know about net neutrality.

Top 4 Things You Need to Know About Net Neutrality

1.  What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality refers to the idea that all Internet content is treated equally.  It aims to prevent Internet providers from interfering with web traffic.

2.  What will happen?

Under these new rules, there will be two levels of Internet access–the traditional fixed-line broadband and access enabled by wireless and mobile providers.  These providers must give more data on Internet speeds and service as well as guarantee that users can access legal websites.

Fixed-line broadband and mobile Internet service providers will be prevented from blocking content and online services from rival companies.  For instance, Verizon will not be able to block user access to Skype because it provides a competing voice service.

Fixed-line broadband providers will be barred from providing preferential treatment to paying clients.  Mobile Internet service providers, however, will be allowed to charge content companies for more efficient delivery of content to homes.  These providers can charge customers more for using high-bandwidth services, such as downloading or streaming videos online.  They can also charge more to companies that want faster service for the delivery of high-bandwidth services, like gaming.

3.  Who votes on net neutrality?

The vote on net neutrality is scheduled for December 21, 2010.  It will be decided upon the five members of the United States Federal Communications Commission panel.  This panel consists of two Republicans, two Democrats, and their chairman, Julius Genachowski.

4.  What has been the reaction?

There has been much controversy surrounding net neutrality and it has only been growing.  Many have been worried about large phone and cable companies growing too powerful in their regulation of Internet traffic.  The FCC has expressed a desire to monitor Internet traffic, but has never received the authority from Congress.

Genachowski’s proposal has drawn many different responses.  According to The Wall Street Journal, phone and cable companies as well as some venture capitalists have praised the proposal.  Numerous phone and cable companies, however, have said that they did not want new rules on Internet lines.  Despite this, many have sided with AT&T Inc., who would like to compromise with the FCC.

Liberal activists in conjunction with some consumer activists have expressed that they believe the proposal is too lenient to these Internet service providers.  Republicans, however, seem to oppose these new net neutrality rules.

As the net neutrality rules are scheduled to be ratified today, many also expect legal challenges and some uncertainty to accompany it.

Author: Megan Palos