Law and Economics — 30 April 2021
Does The Federal Government Regulate Your Website?

Almost since the birth of the internet, the very concept of electronic data displayed on a web page has been considered “free.” What does that mean? Simply put, it means you can write about anything you want — and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) couldn’t do anything to limit your traffic. This is called net neutrality. Without it, an ISP that doesn’t approve of your website’s content could throttle traffic or limit bandwidth for your website. This would make it slower and most likely reduce traffic.

Net neutrality under the Trump administration was under constant attack until the FCC removed the regulations guaranteeing neutrality. Now, Mozilla (the company behind the Firefox web browser) is doing what it can to ensure that the FCC under Biden reinstitutes net neutrality — which is widely considered what’s best for the internet.

A number of companies penned a letter to FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, suggesting that net neutrality is “critical for preserving the internet as a free and open medium that promotes innovation and spurs economic growth.”

Until now, ISPs haven’t changed much despite the lack of oversight. If any ISP has been favoring one website over the other, the favoritism has gone largely unnoticed. But the current system is very vulnerable to corruption. 

Mozilla Chief Legal Officer Amy Keating said, “In a moment where classrooms and offices have moved online by necessity, it is critically important to have rules paired with strong government oversight and enforcement to protect families and businesses from predatory practices. In California, residents will have the benefit of these fundamental safeguards as a result of a recent court decision that will allow the state to enforce its state net neutrality law. However, we believe that users nationwide deserve the same ability to control their own online experiences.”

This was a direct response to the COVID threat. In other words, ISPs having the power to throttle service to websites that allow students to work online would have a disastrous effect on education in our country.

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Dolores Obrien

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