Finding neutrality for the net might be a zero-sum game

W. P. Carey professor believes public will not benefit from new FCC ruling

Computer screen


A U.S. Senate vote to turn back a Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of Obama-era net neutrality regulations was successful last week. Net neutrality restricts internet service providers’ (ISPs) ability to slow down or speed up users’ access to certain websites and applications. However, the effort to save those existing protections is most likely temporary.

Predictions that the House of Representatives may not even take a vote on the measure mean that the Federal Trade Commission will now gain jurisdiction over broadband providers on June 10. The new regulation means the FTC can no longer prevent companies from charging different rates for faster loading speeds or blocking particular websites.

Sound a little confusing? Well, frankly it is. To get a clearer understanding of this complex issue, ASU Now enlisted the help of Robert St. Louis, a professor of information systems at Arizona State University.

St. Louis, who started teaching at ASU in 1969, said the majority of Americans want net neutrality but he doesn't believe that will be possible after June 10.

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Robert St. Louis

Question: Last year’s FCC policy on net neutrality appeared as if it were made to clear the way for corporations to make big money. Did that actually happen?

Answer: I do not believe overturning net neutrality was intended to make the pie larger. It was intended to redistribute the pie. That has not happened yet because the changes have not yet gone into effect.

Q: What led to this latest action to overturn the FCC’s controversial decision?

A: The public is overwhelmingly in favor of net neutrality. This is because it is very hard to argue that ISPs should decide whether Netflix or Hulu is more successful, or to argue that ISPs should get a bigger slice of content providers’ profits.

Q: Some say this legislative victory is fleeting because the House does not intend to take similar action. What is your prediction what will happen in the House and what does that ultimately mean?

A: My guess, and it is only a guess, is that the House will not even vote on it. If that is the case, then the rules governing net neutrality will be eliminated, and ISPs will be able to legally start changing their actions. 

Q: Why should ISPs like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T be allowed to determine winners and losers among content providers?

A: The majority of Americans do not believe they should be able to do that. It is difficult to understand why anyone other than ISPs would want that.

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