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Is the open Internet in Jeopardy? What is Net Neutrality?

In order to address Net Neutrality, online censorship and internet access, a free Panel Discussion with experts has been scheduled by SCATV on Tuesday, March 25 from 7-9:00pm at Tisch Library, Tufts University, room 304.

What does the future hold for Open Internet in the US?

According to Free Press, a nonpartisan organization advocating for universal and affordable Internet access, diverse media ownership, vibrant public media and quality journalism, companies like "Verizon [and Comcast] can now block or slow down any website, application or service they like. And they’ll be able to create tiered pricing structures with fast lanes for those who can afford the tolls — and slow lanes for everyone else."

Does this sound like the Internet as we know it? I don't believe so and frankly, the media consolidation of Cable and Internet companies is alarming and without net neutrality, a pandora box has been open. For example, consumers may have to pay more money because if Netflix has to pay more "rent" to Internet Service Providers just to use the Internet highways, so will we. Exclusive deals between companies and Internet Providers will increase dramatically in order to have guaranteed reach to users and to ensure equal fair. The saga continues.

In order to address this very important, timely and semi-confusing topic,
a free Panel Discussion with experts has been organized by Somerville Community Access Television on TuesdayMarch 25 from 7-9:00pm at Tisch Library, Tufts University, room 304. You can RSVP to the event here.

Net Neutrality and a Brief Timeline
The Open Internet Order, adopted by the FCC in 2010, created Net Neutrality and as the FCC wrote in their Open Internet Order, it "is the Internet as we know it, a level playing field where consumers can make their own choices about what applications and services to use, and where consumers are free to decide what content they want to access, create, or share with others." The main concern: if a handful of companies are controlling our access to information, acting as the gatekeepers to our Internet experience, then this is a major issue.
 
If you are new to this conversation, maybe have heard the buzz words floating around the web, or heard cable networks talking about Net Neutrality, then this upcoming event could help provide some clarification as to what the heck is everyone talking about. 

It is believed to be one of the most important Freedom of Speech issues of our time. 

Before moving ahead, it is pretty important to know how we got to where we are today. Let's go back to 1996, to when the new Telecommunications Act was put into law, which outlined more specific terms for the Cable and Telephone Industry. These basic utility services, or common carriers, are now called Title II "telecommunications carriers," which simply transmit information, and enhanced services that offer interactive features are classified as Title I "information service providers," such as the AOL-style internet portals would fall under this information services category, while DSL companies are classified as telecommunications carriers. This may sound confusing but this all matters. We are in a little bit of trouble here, but a question to pose is why didn't the FCC do something about this?

Flash forward ahead to 2002, when the FCC had a major opportunity to reclassify cable broadband Internet as a "telecommunications service carrier" for better regulations and to make sure that every Internet user has the same quality of access. Well, the short is the FCC did not categorize them as such and this immediately eliminated the major consumer internet providers from common carrier rules, the same rules adhered to by the Telephone or Cable Industry, which are classified as Telecommunications service. The FCC had a prime opportunity to seize their authority over this growing industry but they failed to do so.

In years to come, in 2010, the FCC  proposed new Open Internet orders, aimed to protect and ensure that broadband Internet access is free from discrimination and open to everyone. This caused some legal confusion for companies like Verizon and Comcast because the FCC placed the same regulatory laws on these Internet Providers as if they were classified as a Telecommunications Service. As a result, media conglomerates grew frustrated and felt they were being dealt the wrong cards. 

Verizon called the FCC out on applying net neutrality laws that didn't technically apply to them and Verizon filed a lawsuit. On Jan. 14, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order. This was because the court found the language in the Net Neutrality Open Orders questionable.

To bring it all back and to sum it up, technically Net Neutrality no longer exists, for now. For all of these serious concerns, Somerville Community Access Television organized this special event to have a conversation on this current issues that will impact many Internet users, far and wide, who use the web each day. We hope that this conversation will continue and some questions will be addressed during this panel discussion. We hope to see you there.

This event is free and open to the public.
Contact: Erica Jones, programming@scatvsomerville.org

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Joe Viglione February 18, 2014 at 11:02 AM
This is why the possible Time Warner/Comcast merger is dangerous. Doesn't Asia have faster internet and more users at a lower price? Thought we were the land of the free?

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