Ever felt the internet needed major changes? That's coming, but you're going to be sorry, say advocates of net neutrality. They believe internet providers--like Verizon--should treat all Web traffic equally, and are outraged by the Federal Communications Commission's decision last December that repealed rules requiring those providers to do just that. Advocates of the FCC decision insist the market will now dictate what succeeds or fails online. We asked Zachary Sims, co-founder and CEO of the online coding boot camp Codecademy, and Eliran Sapir, founder and CEO of data mining firm Apptopia, what all this means for the future of the Web.
Should the internet be treated like a utility, such as electricity?
Zachary Sims: Yes. Innovation didn't decrease when net neutrality rules were in place. They made it possible for upstarts, like mine and Eliran's, to compete.
Eliran Sapir: The Communications Act of 1934 tried to regulate the phone system. It caused a lack of competition and made services more expensive. More regulation is terrible for businesses.
What will the internet look like now that the FCC has rolled back these rules?
Sims: The dystopian vision is that you'll be able to watch Netflix, but when someone puts an indie film online, you'll have to pay an extra $100 a month to see it. That's a world where someone starting a company can't get distribution.
Sapir: No changes. Eliminating net neutrality hasn't caused any shift. Whatever has changed is due to market forces. And there's no reason Netflix should pay the same for net access as Apptopia, a company a thousandth of its size.
Will this repeal result in higher or lower internet bills?
Sims: An ISP could effectively charge Codecademy a ransom just to access the same number of consumers. It will become much harder for entrepreneurs to scale, which seems fundamentally against the promise of the internet.
Sapir: I believe to my core that it will result in lower bills for the smaller guys and more innovation. The repeal of net neutrality will force the larger players to invest in infrastructure for broadband service.
Should government address the issue?
Sims: It is the role of Congress to protect consumers, and to deal with some of the other issues that Eliran brings up.
Sapir: The FCC introduces policies that do nothing, and then repeals them, over and over again--while real issues, such as the last-mile delivery of internet, remain.
While the FCC has argued that net neutrality rules made it more difficult for broadband providers to invest in their networks and thus hurt innovation, evidence suggests that such regulation has had no negative impact on telecom investment--instead, it increased by 5 percent from 2014 to 2016, when net neutrality rules were in place.