FCC to vote on net neutrality Thursday

With the upcoming Federal Communications Commission vote on the issue of net neutrality, students and others discuss the topic and its possible outcomes.

Claudia Chen, Social Media Manager

Update: Feb. 26, 12:29 p.m.

The FCC approved Net Neutrality in a 3-2 vote today.


Whether looking for quick homework answers or a searching for a feel-good viral cat video, the Internet has become a main source of information and content for people of all demographics. The Internet has become such a central source of information that Tom Wheeler, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman, is proposing new regulations in order to ensure net neutrality, or the concept that all data on the Internet should be treated equally.

“The idea now is that everyone has equal access to the bandwidth on the main part of the Internet,” BVNW’s technology integration specialist Craig Odle said. “[Without net neutrality,] the idea is that some would have preferred access by paying for it. Big companies might be able to get their information to stream faster or get to consumers faster, because they’re paying to kind of have their own lane on the highway.”

The five directors of the FCC will vote on Wheeler’s new proposed rules Feb. 26. If approved, broadband Internet access service would be reclassified as a telecommunications service. According to a fact sheet released under Wheeler’s profile on the FCC website, the new provision would attempt to prohibit several things such as Internet service providers blocking legal content and throttling (intentionally slowing down Internet service). The fact sheet states these provisions would “preserve and protect the open Internet as a place for innovation and free expression.”

Greg DeYoung, Blue Valley’s executive director of information technology services, said the Internet right now is unregulated. While this may be what has spurred the advancement of the Internet, DeYoung said Wheeler’s proposal is aiming to prevent people from taking advantage of the largely uncontrolled web.

“[The Internet now] is unregulated,” DeYoung said. “That’s a good and bad thing. In the spirit of it, it’s a good thing. Some will say that’s what really fostered the innovation that we’ve seen with the services that are available on the Internet. But when things are unregulated, you can also have people that want to take advantage of [it]. I think we’re starting to see some of that happen and that’s why the FCC has started and tried to step in, because some people are trying to take advantage of those rules.”

Alec Feather, junior and member of political science club, said he believes keeping the Internet neutral is important.

“I feel like similar to water and electricity, information is very important, especially for disadvantaged individuals,” Feather said. “Making resources like…information available for all people realistically and fairly equally is a good idea…If we lose net neutrality, you could see the amount of content you have access to go down for the price you would be paying.”

Odle said he believes the vote is important because of its implications on the future of the Internet. Beyond affecting consumers, Odle said in a world without net neutrality, larger and richer companies may be able to gain an unfair advantage over smaller businesses.

“[Without net neutrality,] if you have enough money, you can basically buy the access to get the product there quicker,” Odle said. “But if you’re a startup company, you know, a small company trying to make its way, you can’t get that because you wouldn’t have enough money. And I think that would be very difficult, and I think in the end could increase the gap between the rich and poor.”

In terms of how the vote will impact the district, DeYoung said the exact ramifications are still largely unknown.

“I can’t tell you if it’ll be a good thing or a bad thing,” DeYoung said. “Right now it’s unclear how much it’s going to impact us…It really depends on the rules that the FCC is going to implement. They have a [document] that they have not shared with the public yet on what their rules are going to be.”

Junior Sean Doyle said he would feel the effects personally if Internet became unneutral.

“I really like the Internet,” Doyle said. “I use the Internet pretty much every day, [and] if the net was not neutral…my use of the Internet would be crippled.”

Despite the fact that he supports net neutrality, Doyle said he believes the status quo is adequate.

“I don’t think that [the vote] is necessary; I think what we have now is fine,” Doyle said. “I just don’t think we should mess with what we have now.”

Whether in support of the Wheeler’s proposal or not, Feather said he believes students should be knowledgeable about the topic of net neutrality because it is something that affects many people.

“I think it’s important for people at Northwest to be informed [about net neutrality],” Feather said. “It’s something that will affect them, depending on how it goes.”