It's been four months since the Federal Communications Commission officially killed net neutrality. Current regulations overseeing the way internet service providers enable access will end this coming Monday, April 23rd.
But California isn't giving up without a fight. A new state bill seeks to replace the FCC's repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules. But is internet regulation at a state level really a good idea?
CNET senior reporter Maggie Reardon says it is not ideal. But before jumping into the nitty gritty of what this new legislation can mean, let's first do a refresher course on what exactly net neutrality is.
Net neutrality 101
Think of net neutrality as the basic rules of the road. "They say that a broadband provider or a wireless provider can't block or slow down access to a service or a website," Reardon explained.
Equal access is both for consumers and companies like Google, Netflix, Facebook. Under these rules, ISPs cannot:
- Prioritize content from sites or services. In other words, just because Netflix uses more bandwidth than a blog site, the ISPs can't charge the company more in order for users to access their content.
- Exert their power when it comes to "interconnection deals." For example, when a company like Netflix is trying to connect to a broadband provider, sometimes those discussions and business deals can get a little hairy and companies that own those networks exert their power and sort of hold those companies hostage so that has government oversight.
Still scratching your head? Here's a one-minute video that does a pretty good job of explaining it:
What's at stake when it comes to ending net neutrality?
Reardon said the internet as we know it is at stake without net neutrality.
The real fear for a lot of people is that you don't want your internet to end up looking like your cable TV system. And that's what people fear -- that if you allow big ISPs which are broadband companies and wireless companies to have control with no rules then they can dictate what you see, what sites you can go to, what services you can use.
We've grown up loving the internet and being able to get to any site and service we want and it's been great for entrepreneurs and for people who want to start businesses and really innovate.
So what are the possible repercussions of getting rid of net neutrality?
- Slowing of innovation at the company level because if you're a startup in a dorm room you won't have the means to pay extra ISP fees for access.
- As a consumer, the fees that are enacted on companies like Netflix or Facebook could then be passed on to you, the user of these types of services.
California is fighting back, so what will the internet experience look like for us if this bill passes?
If the bill passes, the internet experience here in California will remain exactly as is, Reardon explained. It will ensure you don't have broadband companies dictating what sites you can go to, what services you can receive.
This is a state bill that will basically put the federal regulations that were just abolished into state law and it goes further. What's interesting about it, these are the strongest set of net neutrality rules that have ever been proposed and it could really push the nation to sort of follow.
Is internet regulation at the state level really the best idea?
It's not ideal and the state lawmakers who are pushing for this legislation know that.
...They say that they feel that they have to do it because without any federal rules they feel like the citizens of their state are really left behind. And now it's more than half the states in the country are considering something similar to California, although California has really gone further than anybody else.
I think the hope is if they can get these laws passed, that they can force the federal government to take action and that may be in the way of new legislation.