Waiting for net neutrality and CISA
After taking in over one million comments and complaints on it website, the Federal Communications Commission finally closed its website's message thread regarding net neutrality this past Friday. The agency had previously extended the deadline after their server was crashed by an influx of last-minute citizen write-ins, one of its more successful citizen engagement campaigns in the past ten years (second only to the Janet Jackson Super Bowl debacle of the early 2000s).
But will these carefully crafted comments actually make a difference? As speculation around net neutrality and American Internet freedom continues, the Cyber Security Information Act has also been turning a lot of heads amongst citizens and media alike. These proposals, though very different in nature, will have a huge hand in deciding where the Web goes in the United States in just a few short months.
What's been said
In the case of net neutrality, those at risk of falling into the "slow lane" of the Internet as prescribed by major Internet Service Providers are simply those who can't afford to buy in to faster content delivery. Others, though they may have the money to make the "fast lane" possible, will need to take a serious hit to their income in order to keep their customers happy. In many media studies, the prime case of this phenomenon is Netflix, the ultra-popular video streaming service with millions of daily users.
The company has expressed a great deal of frustration with Verizon, in particular, about sluggish speeds, a sentiment they made passive aggressively known in a recent error message for users who couldn't stream their video fast enough. Verizon sent a cease and decist and the messages stopped, but Netflix has remained staunchly on the side of net neutrality.
"Some big ISPs are extracting a toll because they can – they effectively control access to millions of consumers and are willing to sacrifice the interests of their own customers to press Netflix and others to pay," said Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix in a blog post. "Though they have the scale and power to do this, they should realize it is in their long term interest to back strong Net neutrality."
If the one million commenters on the FCC website are any indication, the people side firmly with Hastings. Advocacy website TakePart recently cited a number of powerful messages written to FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler about the continuing controversy, including everyday citizens and U.S. veterans.
What happens next
As of right now, the net neutrality debate is expected to be discussed in the Senate this coming fall, after the traditional August recess within the governmental body. Before this time, the FCC has stated that they will read each and every complaint filed by a citizen to keep in consideration when the final decision is made.
This isn't the only important legislation flying across desks in Washington, D.C. in the coming months, though. The Cyber Information Sharing Act, which passed through the Senate this past month, is expected to be discussed again when the body in back in session, with equal amounts of controversy at hand. It's unclear what the result of either will be, but Forbes contributor Larry Downes reminded citizens that when it comes to net neutrality, encouraging governmental regulation can't be the only proposed solution.
To understand this dichotomy, consider the opponents of overturning net neutrality versus those who oppose CISA, a group that, at times, overlaps. CISA detractors are concerned that the bill gives the government too much power and fear increased ability to spy, while net neutrality defenders are asking that the government be given more regulatory power. This is an interesting split and demonstrates the spectrum of the public's trust in government – what it says for sure is that a citizen would rather trust a spy than an Internet Service Provider.