The Issue of Internet Privacy

Table of contents

The internet is a place where everyone expects to enjoy privacy, freedom, and anonymity. We hope the searches we make on the search engine or the web site we visit are personal, and we do not want anyone to control or monitor our data. However, in reality, there are no such guarantees, and the controversial of network neutrality has become an intense discussion in the past few years as more people are using internet for work, school, and entertainment. In the United States, there is a heated debate over the legal classification of the internet service providers (ISP) as an internet service or a public utility. If they classify as utility-tool, they fall under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Title II or Common Carrier is more rigorously regulated by the FCC to protect the consumer against unfair network practice of ISPs. If ISPs are categories as an information service, they fall under Title I of the Communications Act of 1934. Title I regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and does not require ISPs to disclose activities such as blocking or throttling to the user (Rpc.senate.gov, 2019). This report will examine the three viewpoints of network neutrality which are US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Singapore and myself.

The basic principle of net neutrality is that internet traffic should be open and accessible, regardless of source (Reardon, 2019). It means that online users should have the right to access any websites, use their bandwidth however they want, and internet service providers (ISP) should not provide any additional actions such as priority service to any company or slow down the bandwidth given to the user to reach any internet services they prefer.

Obama-Era: Open Internet Order

In the past, ISPs that provided broadband internet access were classified as information services and were overseen by the FTC. On February 26, 2015, under the Obama administration, the FCC released 2015 Open Internet Order that classifies broadband internet providers as common carriers under Title II of Communications Act of 1934 (Colin, 2019). This change in classification gave FCC the legal power to prohibit ISPs from blocking the user from accessing legal content or non-harmful devices. It also prevented ISPs from providing prioritizing treatment, also referred to as “internet fast lane” to any company who are willing to pay higher fees.

There are pieces of evidence to support that the rule is necessary. One example was the Medison River Communication in 2005 (McCullagh, 2019). It is a telephone and DSL service provider, but it blocked VoIP services because of the fear that VoIP can compete with their business. It is just an example of how ISPs can use its power to strike its opponents. Also, some ISPs charge more money on its users to use certain services.

For example, AT&T allows its user to use Apple’s Facetime only for those who are willing to pay explicitly for it (Goldman, 2019). The Open Internet Order protect the innovative start-up companies that may not have the resources to compete with the large corporation. It also enhances the transparency by requiring ISPs to disclose the promoting rate and all fees so that consumers would not bear any additional costs. Hence, net neutrality rules protect consumers by allowing them to connect to all lawful content on the internet equally, without giving preferential treatment to specific sites or services.

Trump-Era: Repeal Open Internet Order

While there were legislative attempts to thwart the 2015 Open Internet Order they were not successful. In January 2017 Commissioner Ajit Pai was appointed by Presidents Donald Trump as new Chairman of the FCC to bring down net neutrality (Jacob, 2019). In December 2017, the FCC with a vote of 3-2, reversed its decision made in 2015 and ordered that ISPs classified in Title I (Kang, 2019).

Internet service providers argue that they have the rights to manage their network differently among different services, and sometimes, it is necessary to demand a higher price. For example, in 2017, Comcast argues that if Netflix is sucking up all their bandwidth, then they have to pay more to cover the Comcast system updates because of it (Chris, 2019). Many free-market ponente believes that roll back net neutrality creates free market competitions for companies like Comcast and AT&T. Since there are a weaker rule and regulation, each ISPs can manage their network differently to cater to various target consumers. For example, if the consumer thinks Comcast offer a better plan for watching Netflix than AT&T, he can switch to Comcast and enjoy the better service.

Network Neutrality Singapore

In Singapore, the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA) has adopted the net neutrality principles to fit into the local context. In Singapore, all ISPs can only block any non-legal internet content such as gambling and pornographic websites. All ISPs must disclose their network practices and downloading bandwidth to consumers so that there is a transparency to ensure ISPs do not slow down user from accessing websites (Imda.gov.sg, 2019).

These two rules are similar to the US net neutrality order. However, at the same time, ISPs are allowed to offer different internet services as long as it meets the minimum quality of service standards set by IMDA. For example. Circle life has an Unlimited WhatsApp service. In this way, Singapore is less restrictive than the 2015 Open Internet Order which prohibits paid prioritization.

Personal viewpoint

I prefer to have net neutrality. Under net neutrality rules, it ensures that government to step in to prevent ISPs from slowing down access to websites or charge more money to obtain the faster connection. As a student, the internet is crucial for studying and online researching. Sometimes, we have to access some websites to download the software and doing online assignment within the time limit for our course work.

If ISPs are giving too much power to control the website and downloading speed, it will create complications for us. Some may argue that school can pay a higher price to ISPs to obtain faster and reliable internet services, but this means that student will have to pay a higher school fee. The cost to enroll in university is quite expensive and increasing school fee will add more burden to the student from the low-income family. Also, students may not receive the same educational content. The student from wealthy family may enjoy “faster lane”” and access to more resources as compared to the low-income family student. In conclusion

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