As the debate over net neutrality in the U.S. continues to draw itself out, some in Washington believe that the entire concept has been misnamed.
The Federal Communications Commission is finalizing its new rules regarding how internet service providers (ISPs) can control internet traffic, and Anna Eshoo, a Congresswoman from California, has turned to social network Reddit to seek a new name for the term used to describe ISPs’ relationships with content providers and users. She has opened a contest to see who can come up with a better term for net neutrality, claiming that the rhetoric around net neutrality has confused the purpose of the term and the nature of the argument:
Internet users know what they want and expect from the Internet, but these days all the jargon about net neutrality rules is making it difficult to know what box to check that advances their best interest. So I’m hosting this contest to rebrand net neutrality and bring some clarity to an otherwise muddy legal debate before the FCC finalizes its proposed open Internet rules. If Internet users care about their right to uninhibited access to the Internet, this is their opportunity to have an impact on the process, to help put the advantage back in the hands of the Internet user, and to ensure that the free and open Internet prevails.
VISUAL CONTEXT: WORLDWIDE WEB SPEEDS
Eshoo is clearly for rules that are similar to the ones that had been implemented before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided to invalidate the “open internet” rules the FCC set forth in 2010. Since that decision in January, a firestorm of debate over how much control ISPs have over internet traffic has raged in the U.S. Technology big wigs such as the CEO of Netflix, Google heads, and others have come forth in support of rules that make it illegal for ISPs to favor certain content providers in web traffic speeds and delivery to users. ISPs retort that they own their networks and should have control over how the traffic works. Eshoo describes the problem facing proponents of the “open internet”:
In May, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed new Internet traffic rules under the guise of net neutrality. But if approved, the proposed plan could split the flow of online traffic into tiers by allowing priority treatment to big online corporations that pay higher fees to broadband providers. This would mean a fast lane for those who can afford it and a slow lane for everyone else, hindering small businesses, innovators and Internet users.
Reddit users are largely in favor of closely-regulated net neutrality, and some of them have come up with clever titles for the concept including “Unaltered Universal Internet Access”, the “Digital Anti-Discrimination Act” and “Information Equality”. Although Eshoo has not called for an “Act” per se, the suggestions center around denoting that access be delivered indiscriminately.
And, of course, there are the naysayers who claim that net neutrality — as a term — is fine the way it is.