What is net neutrality? Why should Braintree Internet users care?
by Brett Markham, BELD Internet
It may not be the hottest topic in the tech world, but net neutrality is a big deal for Braintree’s Internet users who care about consumer choice and free speech.
What is net neutrality?
Net neutrality is the idea that Internet Service Providers (ISP) and the government should treat all Internet traffic equally.
Simply put, net neutrality protections ensure that your ISP—whether that’s BELD Internet, Verizon Fios or Comcast Xfinity—can’t block or slow down access to particular content or data for their own benefit. These protections also mean ISPs can’t create “fast lanes” for content providers that pay for priority treatment.
Net neutrality allows you to decide what experience you’ll have with the Internet. Without it, powerful ISPs like Verizon and Comcast could have a say over which content you see.
The great Internet equalizer
Net neutrality proponents believe the Internet belongs to everybody and all should have equal access to it. One person can put up a website and have a voice, and as long as his or her site can be found, that voice is just as big as that of a multi-billion dollar media empire.
Without protections, big ISPs could sell network priority to wealthy corporations, leaving smaller individual websites and blogs in the backwater because they take a minute to load and thus are not useful.
Open Internet and free speech
Net neutrality regulations are set by federal and state law. In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enacted net neutrality rules that boiled down to these principles:
- No throttling. ISPs are barred from intentionally slowing down or limiting the user’s bandwidth. This can happen even if the user has unlimited data.
- No blocking. ISPs cannot block users from accessing lawful content, devices and applications.
- No Internet fast lanes. Internet providers cannot charge you or other companies for faster Internet access. Without this protection, people who couldn’t afford priority treatment would be forced to go on the slow lane, and we’d have a system of Internet haves and have-nots.
The FCC began reversing these rulings in 2017, and subsequently some states have worked to pass local net neutrality laws (although state law may not apply to ISPs based out of state).
Free speech comes into play here, too. All over the world, various governments have sought to censor dissidents by controlling the flow of information to citizens. But net neutrality means ISPs aren’t allowed to do that. (Social media companies, on the other hand, are free to control what users see on their platforms.)
Forever net neutral in Braintree
For Braintree residents, the bottom line is this: No matter who’s in charge in Washington or on Beacon Hill, the Internet will always be accessible to BELD Internet customers. We will never prioritize or de-prioritize content or data in any way.
From the very beginning, our infrastructure has been designed with the original ideals of the Internet in mind, and that includes treating all websites, services and destinations the same.
Also, BELD Internet is an actual governmental entity covered under the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA). We aren’t allowed to censor anything that is lawful, and we can’t cut backroom deals.
We believe the Internet is for everyone and that you, not your ISP, should decide what you do and stream online.
Brett Markham has served the Town of Braintree since 2002 as BELD Internet’s networking engineering director. He also owns a research-and-development farm and has published books on sustainable agriculture and mini-farming.