Finding Neutral Ground on the Internet Rights Debate

It can be confusing when government bureaucrats and the media offer wildly different perspectives on the intent and ramifications of a new controversial policy. This was plainly evident in December regarding the issue of net neutrality.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the new “Restoring Internet Freedom Order”1 is meant to:

Reverse the previous “heavy-handed utility-style regulation of broadband internet access service, which imposed substantial costs on the entire internet ecosystem” in order to “protect consumers at far less cost to investment than the prior rigid and wide-ranging utility rules”
Restore the “longstanding, bipartisan light-touch regulatory framework that has fostered rapid internet growth, openness and freedom for nearly 20 years”
Restore “a favorable climate for network investment,” which is the “key to closing the digital divide, spurring competition and innovation that benefits consumers”2
From this perspective, the legislation sounds like a positive. But the Internet Association, a trade association that represents leading global internet companies on matters of public policy, is more favorable of the previous net neutrality policy:

“Since its inception, the internet has been governed by principles of openness and non-discrimination. Net neutrality is the legal principle that underpins the free and open internet as we know it today. Simply put, it means that broadband gatekeepers — Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, and other internet service providers (ISPs) — should treat all internet traffic equally and not discriminate between different bits of data. That’s how the internet works today: users can go to any website and access any type of content, whenever they want.”3

Those who advocate “net neutrality” want everyone to have free and equal access to content on the internet, while the FCC believes the internet is a free market and providers can sell it however they want. Thus, the new rule opens the door to competitive pricing structures, whereas customers may have to pay more to receive higher internet speed or access certain websites. Unfortunately, this means people with lesser means — such as small businesses and students — may be considerably disadvantaged.4

Even if you don’t think you have an opinion about net neutrality, FCC records may show otherwise. One of the biggest controversies surrounding the new policy is that the FCC implemented it based on public feedback to its website. However, it has since been determined that of the 21.7 million comments received in 2017, only 6 percent were unique — the other 94 percent were submitted multiple times — in some cases, hundreds of thousands of times.5

Commenters may have stolen the identities of real people in order to submit a mass wave of similar opinions. You can plug your name into this tool (set up by the New York State Attorney General’s Office) to find out if an opinion was submitted under your name and address without your knowledge.

Regulation is a complex subject, with consequences on both sides of the issue. However, there are a couple of lessons that can be taken from current debates, like the one on net neutrality. First, much of what we read has some type of biased “spin” — and this can apply to financial topics as well. Second, although it’s always a good idea to read as much as we can, it’s also important to run our thoughts and opinions by someone who is knowledgeable on the topic at hand. When it comes to insurance, that’s us. Please keep us in mind as you consider your insurance needs now and in the future.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 FCC. Dec. 14, 2017. “Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order, and Order.” Accessed Jan. 5, 2018.

2 FCC. Dec. 14, 2017. “FCC Acts to Restore Internet Freedom.” Accessed Jan. 5, 2018.

3 Internet Association. “Net Neutrality.” Accessed Jan. 5, 2018.

4 Amy McGinn. Baltimore Sun. Dec. 27, 2017. “Net neutrality repeal widens opportunity gap for students.” Accessed Jan. 5, 2018.

5 Pew Research Center. Nov. 29, 2017. “Public Comments to the Federal Communications Commission About Net Neutrality Contain Many Inaccuracies and Duplicates.” Accessed Jan. 5, 2018.

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