Cases For and Against Net Neutrality Set for Debate at Northwestern

Should all internet data be treated equally and delivered at the same speed?

It should, according to the principle of net neutrality. But four months ago, the Federal Communications Commission repealed net neutrality regulations set in 2015.

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In the lead-up to the FCC’s vote to repeal the rules, there was no shortage of public outcry. And support for net neutrality appears to cross party lines: more than 80 percent of 1,077 registered voters surveyed by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland supported net neutrality regulations. 

Meanwhile, opponents of net neutrality argue providers can build better internet infrastructure by charging companies like Netflix or YouTube to distribute their service at a high speed.

Prevailing arguments both for and against the concept take center stage at a net neutrality debate Tuesday at Northwestern University. ABC News correspondent John Donvan will host the event, called “Preserve Net Neutrality: All Data is Created Equal.” It is a joint partnership between Northwestern’s Newt and Jo Minow Debate Series and Intelligence Squared U.S., a non-partisan nonprofit that hosts discussions on issues ranging from foreign policy to sports and science. 

Donvan says the topic has a strong resonance given the scope and ubiquity of the internet in our daily lives.

“This is about everyone’s internet, this is about everyone’s experience,” Donvan said. “It really has a very, very direct relevance to the lives of virtually everybody who happens to come to the debate or who hears it later on.”

Once the FCC rules were published in the Federal Register on Feb. 22, a ticking deadline of 60 legislative days began for Congress to pass a resolution under the Congressional Review Act which would force the FCC to reinstate net neutrality.

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat representing Massachusetts, introduced a resolution of disapproval on Feb. 27 and needs one Republican vote for it to pass with a majority of 51 supporters. But the resolution would face a tougher fight in the House where it doesn’t have nearly as much support, and it wouldn’t necessarily be surprising if President Donald Trump, a known proponent of deregulation, vetoed the measure were it to reach his desk.

Meanwhile, several U.S. states and cities are considering or have passed laws imposing net neutrality, which may apply to ISPs operating under state or municipal contracts.

“Preserve Net Neutrality: All Data is Created Equal” takes place at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday. The event is free and open to the public, although attendees must register in advance. (The debate will also be streamed live on the website of Intelligence Squared, where you can read about the participants.) 

Donvan joins us to discuss the state of net neutrality and arguments on both sides.

Related stories:

FCC Repeals Net Neutrality Regulations Despite Protests

Outcry Over FCC Plan to End Obama-Era Net Neutrality Rules

Net Neutrality: What’s at Stake?

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