If you haven’t heard of net neutrality, you must be living under a rock (or so the idiom goes), or maybe you just don’t use the internet, in which case, you are either a Luddite and/or prefer the relative calm of said under-a-rock lifestyle. But if you are one of the more than 275 million people in the United States who use the internet daily, you’ve likely been riding the roller coaster that is net-neutrality news.
Coined by Professor Tim Wu, the term net neutrality describes a range of controls, protections, and access issues for internet consumers. At its foundation, the principle of net neutrality is that that internet providers should be neutral gateways that provide equal access to legal content on the web.
Then: In February 2015, with strong support from then-President Barack Obama, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted in favor of strong net neutrality rules that would keep the internet open and free, and that would prohibit broadband service providers from blocking or slowing web traffic.
In December 2017, in a 3-2 party-line vote, the FCC rescinded the Obama-era prohibitions, meant to protect consumers, and “over objections from Democrats, the FCC gave up most of its authority over broadband providers such as AT&T and Comcast Corp. and handed enforcement to other agencies.” [AdWeek, Bloomberg News, 2/22/2018]
Now: On February 22, the FCC began the formal steps to officially abolish current net neutrality rules by publishing the December vote in the Federal Register. This was countered by 22 state attorneys general, the District of Columbia, and numerous advocacy groups, who filed lawsuits or joined in the legal battle started by Mozilla and Vimeo.
Later: So, what’s next? Join us April 5, when Assistant Professor of Media Ethics and Law Christopher Terry tracks the inception of net neutrality, the history of the policy, its past and current legal challenges, and the ongoing debate over the FCC's still-unimplemented decision to repeal the 2015 decision.
Christopher Terry, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, is an assistant professor of media ethics and law in the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota. Prior to coming to the University, Terry spent six years as a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and 15 years as a producer for Clear Channel Communications, a role that placed him at ground zero during the deregulation of commercial radio in the 1990s, and motivated his desire to teach. That professional experience continues to inform his research on policy implementation within the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Elections Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and the real-world effects of policies on political communication. This research, in turn, shapes what he teaches in the classroom. Terry is the author of numerous articles and a sought-after presenter. His research has earned top awards from the Law Division of the National Communication Association and the Law and Policy Division of the International Communication Association, and has received financial support from both the Industry Research Forum of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and the Center for Information Policy Research.
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