A vote on the way Americans use the Internet — and how much they’ll pay in the future — is less than a month away.
The issue is known as net neutrality. And late last year, President Barack Obama called on the Federal Communications Commission to draft rules that would regulate broadband Internet access. These rules would make Internet access a public utility or resource, according to The New York Times.
Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported the FCC plans strong net neutrality rules. These rules would essentially treat Internet providers like telecommunications companies.
The FCC is reportedly set to vote at its February meeting whether to draft regulations that prevent Internet providers from creating premium “fast lanes” and force them to treat all Internet data the same.
The FCC’s regular monthly meeting is set for Feb. 26, according to the commission’s website. No formal agenda has been released yet.
Right now, though, both houses of Congress are busy trying to preempt the President’s call for action.
According to a Washington Post report, Republican Senators have introduced a bill that would prevent ISPs, like cable companies, from creating these premium streams for websites. These sites like those belonging to small companies and startups, would have to pay more for faster content delivery.
The bill is supposed to be a compromise with the President, who prefers the federal government police the ISPs to ensure that all data is delivered consistently at the same speed.
If there were to be no change in laws, soon Internet providers could begin creating these avenues where sites that pay more get their data delivered quicker. In some cases, an Internet provider could completely block a service, like video streaming or VOIP. This would likely impact services like Netflix and other video streaming services. But it would also likely include domain registrars and Web host providers, who require fast Internet connections to deliver their products.
For a small business owner, that could mean if a site or app you rely upon doesn’t kick more money to Internet providers, it won’t get priority speeds. That could slow down your operations or force them to change entirely.
And moreover, that could mean your company’s website could be delivered slower to your customers or potential customers, or not at all, supporters of net neutrality say.
Ahead of any formal votes in Washington, there have been movements for and against net neutrality. Advocates and experts have argued in the past that a lack of access to consistent broadband Internet threatens small businesses and startups.
Domain registrar Namecheap has been taking a stand for net neutrality for several years now. It has even sponsored a day, in conjunction with Reddit, where companies can switch their domains to Namecheap away from other registrars and hosts that are against net neutrality.
One company opposing net neutrality is Cisco. In a statement posted at the company’s website, Cisco explains:
“Cisco supports an open and innovative Internet, and believes that empowered consumers, maximum user choices, and a free marketplace are the keys to maintaining an open and innovative Internet.”
The company believes regulating Internet service providers might harm this openness and innovation.
President Barack Obama Photo via Shutterstock