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Andrew Lackey
Professor Malcolm Campbell
English 1104
5 April 2017
A Free Web: How Businesses Thrive on Net Neutrality
The internet is about to undergo a massive renovation. The only problem is that this

renovation will not appeal to us, the average web-user, nor will it appeal to the thousands of

small-business owners who need an online presence to succeed and create new jobs for the

United States. Net neutrality, the subject that unifies, strengthens, and builds upon the foundation

of the internet, is under attack. Judges, internet service providers, even the U.S. President, are

attempting to reconstruct the internet into a system that does not favor the job growth trends we

have seen for the past two decades.

Before going into the details, net neutrality and the roles of both the Federal

Communications Commission (FCC) and internet service providers (ISPs) need to be addressed.

Net neutrality is the concept of having all internet activity treated the same by ISPs (Time

Warner Cable, Verizon, Cox, etc.), and therefore anyone who chooses to use the internet will

browse at the same speed as everyone else (FCC). This practice originated from that of telephone

operators, whose job was to connect phone calls no matter who was on the line. Telephone

operators did not discriminate from any type of phone activity, making it possible for me to call

to my mother just as easily as calling my drug dealer (theoretically, of course). The same has

held true for ISPs; they provide the fiber-optic networks that produce high-speed internet, which

web-users pay for by yearly subscription, and do nothing regarding what content actually

transmits on their network. This tradition has not changed since the beginning of the internet,

thanks to the FCC.


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The Communications Act of 1934 established what is known as the Federal

Communications Commission, also known as the FCC. There are three parts of this law that

make it legal for the FCC to regulate the internet. The first part is Title II, which establishes the

right for the FCC to regulate and enforce rules to common carriers a person or company that

transports goods and services. The second part is the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which

was simply a revision of Title II making the internet relevant to the FCC. Net neutrality wasnt

even acknowledged, by law, until 2015 when the FCC decided to classify ISPs as common

carriers. So how was there net neutrality before 2015? What upheld the concept of net neutrality

from 1998 to 2015 was the Communications Decency Act (CDA). This third piece of legislation

informally created a net neutral internet, thanks to porn. Internet porn was growing rapidly in the

mid 1990s, and congress needed to design a law that appealed to the 1st amendment but also

appealed to protecting children from indecent content. Congress used CDA to establish a set of

rules, which would be enforced by the FCC, that protected children from obscene materials,

protected ISPs from being liable for the adult content, and to protect the free-speech of the

pornographic content creators. When the dust settled, ISPs were barred from restricting the

content found on their networks and pornographic material was up-held by our right to free-

speech, which inevitably equipped the FCC to enforce net neutrality where entrepreneurs,

content creators, and web users could freely share content and enjoy equal opportunity that helps

build business, even if its porn.

Before 2015, what helped maintain a free-web in the last decade was ex-President

Obamas push for FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to recognize ISPs as a common carrier. When

that decision was made by the FCC, and through multiple court rulings, three bright-line rules

came into play: ISPs could not block, throttle, or use paid prioritization when dealing with their
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broadband networks. This means that they cannot block any legal content, as that was initially

established by CDA in 1998; throttle, or vary the speed of internet across websites; or prioritize

sites by offering to put them in fast-lanes in return for money (Washington post). Obamas

interest in protecting the free-internet through these bright-line rules stems from the popular

belief that the internet is the cornerstone to innovation and that net neutrality creates an equal

playing field for entrepreneurs, writers, activists, and businesses (Obama).

An analysis done by Stanford University gives multiple reasons why de-regulating ISP

businesses would slow competition on the internet and give control to a couple very powerful

and very wealthy corporations. Ridding the internet of net neutrality would essentially give ISPs

the ability to act as content gatekeepers (Stanford). Today, web-users and content creators see

the internet as one stable interface, allowing them to transport to any location imaginable without

restriction. In this case, the real power of the internet is derived from the users and creators, and

not from ISPs. However, when ISPs are given the option regulate connectivity of domains,

prompting companies to pay for high-speed internet, small-businesses will be left in the

figurative fiber-optic dust that large, wealthy corporations stir up. Successful online businesses

such as Google, Netflix, and YouTube will have the option to be placed on a pedestal and reign

over the businesses that cannot afford the fees that ISPs place on their networks; and because

they are unregulated, their profits will be tremendous. From a users point of view, the internet

will no longer be homogeneous. It will resemble something like my bedroom with clothes

scattered all over my floor, the only place I would want to be is my nice warm bed next the

window which oversees a beautiful spring morning. Of course, my clothes are symbolizing the

small businesses overlooked by me, the web-user, and my bed is representing the one location on

the internet that is even remotely enjoyable or convenient. With net neutrality, my mom will act
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as the FCC she will clean my room for me and make every square-inch a place in which I can

roam freely, without restriction. Just like having a specific cable TV subscription, where only

certain content is available to the subscriber, without FCC regulation ISP subscriptions will look

similar, only in web form. Of course, no one knows exactly how the internet would function or

look like without the FCC because courts usually favor their regulations and push for net

neutrality.

Those who oppose net neutrality claim that competition and innovation are hindered.

When it comes to paying for internet service via ISP, think of it like Golden Coral an all-you-

can-eat buffet (mashable). Large and small people alike, they all pay the same price but for

different amounts of food. Comparing this to bandwidth usage, sites that use the most bandwidth

such as Netflix and YouTube (using up 37.1% and 17.9% of all bandwidth data, respectively)

theoretically pay the same price to hold their domain as every other site. Robert Khan, the co-

inventor to Internet-Protocol (IP), stresses that because ISPs are forced to provide the same

network capabilities to everyone, the incentive to innovate and improve upon their fiber-optic

networks becomes stale (Stanford). However, I will argue that the incentive for ISPs to improve

their networks and bring in costly engineers to do the job is most definitely derived from keeping

the web neutral. It is also valuable to point out that internet consumers choose for themselves

who their ISP will be, and that is also where competition may come from. The reality is that most

Americans cannot tell the difference between two ISPs, and I believe it is within an ISPs best

interest to provide consumers with accurate and easily understood advertisements to maximize

membership, but I digress. An ISPs incentive to innovate will come from the need to provide

consumers with the best possible network because if they dont they will lose customers and

inevitably go out of business. Marc Andreessen, a successful founder of the internet software
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company Netscape, claims If you have these pure net neutrality rules where you can never

charge a company like Netflix anything, youre not ever going to get a return on continued

network investment (marginal). The problem with this statement is that charging a fee to the

few companies who use the most bandwidth will not compare to how much revenue an ISP is

already making on the data plans web-users pay for (Revenue Stat). Another way that

competition is said to be hindered is through the creation of new ISPs. For anyone to start their

own ISP it will take millions of dollars, multiple licenses and contracts, and fiber-optic know-

how to even compete with the large companies today (arstechnica). Looking at a recent report,

ISPs might not need this type of competition to have an incentive to innovate. It is reasonable to

assume that ISPs will innovate without competition, according to McKinsey Global Institute

research. This institution found that the best course of action for public sector leaders would be

to promote broad access to the Internet, since Internet usage, quality of [broadband]

infrastructures, and Internet expenditure are correlated with higher growth in per capita GDP

(McKinsey). When online activity continues to grow, because of FCC regulations to keep the

internet neutral, ISPs will be forced to maintain bandwidth networks and secure domains at a

reasonable speed that adapts to the changing bandwidth usage of growing businesses. This is

exactly what The McKinsey Global Institute found net neutrality gives equal opportunity to all

businesses, which shows a collateral affect to GDP growth and an incentive for ISPs to maintain

their networks as a result.


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Works Cited

https://www.fcc.gov/general/open-internet
http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/high-tech/our-insights/internet-matters
http://www.businessinsider.com/a-federal-appeals-court-has-struck-down-2014-1
http://www.businessinsider.com/simple-explanation-of-net-neutrality-2014-4
https://www.dailydot.com/layer8/what-is-title-ii-net-neutrality-fcc/
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2015/06/12/net-neutrality-
takes-effect-today-heres-how-it-affects-you/?utm_term=.412febc94714
https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2014/11/10/free-and-open-internet-
what-you-need-know-about-net-neutrality
http://mashable.com/2014/05/16/5-arguments-against-net-neutrality/#.0bilmiHtmqt
http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/netflix_statistics-facts/
https://arstechnica.com/business/2014/04/one-big-reason-we-lack-internet-
competition-starting-an-isp-is-really-hard/
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/05/marc-andreessen-on-net-
neutrality.html

Even though I dont understand most of this stuff, its a great EIP. I think that you used the right
about of history and then jumped straight into your points. I like how you included examples of
ISPs at the beginning that helped me understand what you were talking about. I liked how you
made the connection in paragraph 5 about looking at it from the users point of view, that drew
me in as a reader because I was able to connect to that aspect. I also like the golden carol
example. Just a few formatting things, make sure to change your page number header to Times
New Roman font. I think it would be good to introduce your source initially in a brief sentence
and then following that use parenthetical citations. Overall I think you did a great job explaining
your topic. As a reader who doesnt understand this topic very well I was able to understand it
better through the everyday life examples you used. Great work!

Rebecca Redmond