The 6 Best Things That Happened to the Internet This Year

The 6 Best Things That Happened to the Internet This Year

Over a year ago, we offered a handy guide for explaining net neutrality to your relatives. This holiday season, that conversation is a lot more fun. In the past 12 months, the FCC has issued the strongest open internet rules this country has ever seen—and the fun doesn’t stop there.

It feels like 2015 will go on record as one of the most important years for the internet since the creation of the World Wide Web. That might be overstating things, but protecting net neutrality is tremendously important to a free and open internet, and the battle is hardly over.

Faced with mounting litigation, a grumpy judge could still call foul on the FCC’s net neutrality play. But a handful of other milestones indicates that America’s historically slow and shitty internet is destined to get better.

From January through the dying days of 2015, here are the most encouraging things that have happened to broadband internet this year.

Best Thing #1: Obama’s Plan to End Internet Monopolies

A federal court struck down the FCC’s net neutrality rules last January and, quite unfortunately, sided with big telecom in doing so. This was a bad thing that happened. Exactly one year later, President Obama visited Iowa’s first gigabit city and made a bold declaration that America desperately needs more internet service providers that aren’t controlled by giants like Comcast.

This is a really great idea! Due to a number of nonsensical factors, the Comcasts and Verizons of the nation enjoy natural monopolies in their respective markets. For instance, I live in Brooklyn just a few miles from the internet backbone, but I only have one choice for a high-speed broadband: Time Warner Cable. This wouldn’t be quite so frustrating if I actually got the speeds that I pay for. I don’t, and I don’t have any other options.

What Obama proposed ahead of the FCC’s new open internet rules was a sweeping program that would increase competition in the ISP market and compel companies to offer true broadband speeds. The president named cities like Cedar Falls, Iowa and Chattanooga, Tennessee as models for the rest of the country to follow. Even Google Fiber seems like a refreshingly less-than-evil option. Quite frankly, any additional competition would force the big telecom companies into improving their infrastructure and offering anything but absurdly awful customer services.

Adam Smith would agree: Competition is a good thing for any capitalist economy.

Best Thing #2: The FCC’s Open Internet Rules

After the first attempt at preserving net neutrality, the FCC did a bad thing and proposed a widely loathed set of rules that would allow fast lanes. Also known as paid prioritization, this would’ve let big telecom companies favor certain types of traffic over others for a fee. It’s essentially the opposite of net neutrality.

A massive public outcry became deafening through the end of the year, and FCC chairman Tom Wheeler made an about face. Early this year, the agency revealed a new set of open internet rules that would reclassify the internet as a public utility and give broadband service similar regulatory protections as telephones. The rules also forbid paid prioritization, throttling, and blocking certain websites. Internet experts and net neutrality pioneers like Tim Wu praised the plan, and so did we.

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