While the concept of net neutrality is quite polarizing in the United States — with the two sides fiendishly arguing over how tightly regulated the internet should be, and how much control internet service providers (ISPs) should have over network speeds and access — some advocacy groups are seeking to understand the desires of the general American public.
The advocacy group “for California’s consumers of technology and innovation” CALinnovates, conducted a survey in which it polled consumers about their opinions on what the government should do regarding the regulation of internet traffic. 63% replied either that all traffic should be treated equally, and — if there is priority given to certain “lanes” — the prioritization should not be because companies pays for it. One in four respondents said they believe that government policies can keep up with the pace of IT innovation.
68% of respondents agreed with a statement saying that “laws written decades ago for the telephone system aren’t adequate for dealing with the internet” according to reports. It is important to note that CALinnovates steered clear of asking consumers about their specific positions on whether or not the internet should be reclassified as a public utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act — in other words, those “laws written decades ago” — because respondents won’t understand what that Act is, said the group. (CALinnovates is comprised of a number of organizations in tech, including AT&T.)
It is clear that the challenges to conducting polls of this nature lie in the general ignorance surrounding what net neutrality actually is, how it has historically been implemented, and what the laws in place mean for the future of broadband regulation. A small poll conducted earlier this year by a reporter at VentureBeat found that the majority of respondents (57%) said that they do not know enough about net neutrality to knowledgeably issue judgement on what the FCC or government should do about it. Perhaps more education on the subject is necessary for thorough understanding of how the American public feels about the future of web regulation.