Consumer access to the marketplace of ideas, goods and services isn’t the only underpinning of American society to be affected tomorrow, when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) votes on whether to lift restrictions that require internet service providers to treat all legal internet traffic equally in terms of speed. The decision also will reverberate for the nation’s security. The FCC vote on whether to lift so-called “net neutrality” rules will be felt in the fight against online messaging for terrorist recruitment, the struggle to quell disinformation campaigns, and efforts to thwart cyber intrusions by foreign adversaries.
- The core principle of net neutrality is that all lawful internet traffic is considered equal by internet service providers (ISPs)—mainly AT&T, Verizon and Comcast for the U.S. This means that, no matter whether the traffic consists of video, audio or text, it is provided at the same bandwidth regardless of which website the data is travelling to or from.
- Without net neutrality, ISPs would be able to determine which sites are accessible and how fast the internet traffic is able to move to and from each site. The fear is that ISPs will essentially create a tiered system whereby some traffic—likely that belonging to those paying a premium—would traverse networks quickly, while everyone else must deal with lag times (known as throttling) or even site blackouts.