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Should the Internet be classified as a public utility?

December 3, 2014

By Jeremy Quattlebaum, Student Voices staff writer

In mid-November, President Obama came out in favor of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulation of the Internet because, he said, it should be considered a public utility like electricity and water services.

“In plain English, I’m asking [the FCC] to recognize that, for most Americans, the Internet has become an essential part of everyday communication and everyday life,” the president said in a statement.

Obama was essentially backing the concept of net neutrality, saying that the Internet should be regulated to prevent Internet service providers (ISPs) from charging websites for faster connections. (To learn more about net neutrality, read the Speak Out: Who should pay for the Internet?) But his announcement angered telecommunication providers like Comcast and AT&T, which drummed up support from members of Congress who say Internet regulation will stifle freedom of speech.

Obama’s stand comes after a federal court ruled that the FCC cannot regulate ISPs under their current classification of information service. But if the FCC reclassified the Internet as a common carrier, like telephone service, it would fall under the authority of the FCC through Article II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934. A common carrier is a private company that has to sell its services to everyone on the same terms. The FCC is limited in its ability to regulate the Internet as an information service, which doesn't require equal service for all.

Announcing his support for the FCC to regulate the Internet, Obama said: “Cable companies can't decide which online stores you should shop at or which streaming services you can use. And they can’t let any company pay for priority over its competitors.”

The president argues that currently ISPs can sell faster Internet services to companies like Netflix and Skype. Those who argue that the system would give an unfair advantage to larger corporations who can pay for the faster service criticized the FCC’s decision. They said that the FCC is essentially allowing ISPs to create a tiered Internet with “fast lanes,” where, if you can pay, your content can be sent faster than someone who doesn’t.

Obama supports net neutrality, which argues that ISPs should charge the same amount for bandwidth. This means that it would take the same amount of time to access a large corporation’s website as a personal site or a small-business site. “Net neutrality has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation – but it is also a principle that cannot be taken for granted. We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas,” the president said.

The ISPs argue that they, too, believe in net neutrality, but that regulation could harm the industry, restricting the ways the providers can make a profit.

The ISPs, through their trade organization, National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), contend that if the Internet is reclassified, government bureaucracy will burden the Internet and lead to a decline in service and innovation. According to the NCTA’s website, “The Internet works for Americans because government has wisely chosen to let the web grow and thrive without burdensome regulation and onerous red tape that can choke progress and smother innovation.”

The NCTA argues that limits on the ways that ISPs can charge people and businesses for connectivity will restrict the amount of money they can spend on laying more fiber and building up the Internet infrastructure. It says the U.S. already is falling behind countries like South Korea and Japan. The NCTA has said on its website that “common carrier regulation discourages infrastructure investment and network enhancements. When a company’s return on investment is dictated by the government, there’s little incentive to re-invent or improve the system, which is why copper phone lines are still prevalent, water main breaks are an all-too-common occurrence, and the electric grid is in need of serious repair.”

The FCC, which is an independent commission overseen by Congress, has said that it appreciates the input from the president. FCC chair Tom Wheeler has proposed a hybrid system in which regulation on the retail end of the ISP’s service would be minimal, but the service would be reclassified as a public utility, allowing for stricter rules on transmission and access.

Now, the FCC is analyzing whether it should reclassify the Internet as a public service or have it remain an information service. The five-member commission will decide on the new Internet rules in the coming months.

What do you think?

Should the Internet be considered a public utility? Should ISPs be able to charge different rates for the same service? Would prioritized content, so-called Internet fast lanes, lead to increased development on the Web, or will it hurt small businesses in favor of larger companies? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!
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Comments
2/27/2018
CA
Gregory
Jabro
The internet is the internet we use it to go do a lot of things right now so quit trying. To limit our usage or what we the people have the FCC is stupid and should leave it alone because net neutrality needs to be saved by these idiots in suits and ties.

11/18/2016
Covington/LA
Emma
Coach Pennigton/Covington High School
I believe that the Internet should be classified as a public utility. The current world that we live in is significantly dependent on the Internet and everything that comes along with it. Some could argue that it should not, that it is a luxury, but in this day and age, that is no longer the case. People of all ages rely on this technology nowadays. It is being incorporated more into schools across the countries, for example, and students need to be able to access the Internet for school related activities. The Internet is being found everywhere in our society, and so it should be a public utility.

3/16/2016
Stroudsburg, PA
Ashley
Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg SJHS
I think that Internet should be considers a public utility. I think this because in everyday life many people use the Internet for a verity of things, just like people use electric, water and other utility services everyday. Utilities are things that make everyday life easier and small tasks easier to accomplish. If you think about it we consider water a utility but if you go back a hundred years or so people used to get water from rivers and other places and carry it back home. So if we consider water a utility Internet should be one too. But I do not believe the ISPs should be able to charge websites so they can get a better connection I believe that is just a scam to earn more money for the already greedy people who want to set a price for faster connection. I think prioritizing websites you will start to commercialize the business of Internet.

3/15/2016
Stroudsburg, PA
Hannah R.
Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
I think that yes, the Internet should be classified as a public utility. I think this because it fits into the daily categories we use such as electricity and water. No, the ISPs should not be able to charge different rates for the same service. I think that Internet fast lanes will most definitely hurt small business because the prioritized content has more of a spotlight on them.

3/15/2016
Stroudsburg, PA
Sabrina
Mr. Hanna/ Stroudsburg JHS
The internet should NOT be considered a public utility. Its not a necessity. Its a luxury. People got through life just fine without it before. IPSs should be able to charge according to the quality of what you're using. Fast lanes can excist as again, the quality of the internet. It will also lead to improvement and more interest in the web because of such quality. It can hurt or advance companies deciding how you look at it.

12/11/2015
Diamond Bar, CA
VivianP5
Wong/Lorbeer
I think that the Internet should be considered a public utility because like the everyday things we use: water, electricity, transportation, the Internet is also one of them. Daily, we use the internet to do a varieties of things. No matter it be a computer, phone, laptop, it is something most human beings use nowadays. ISPs be able to charge different rates for the same service, because we are using something that based off of money making. I think prioritized content would lead to increased development on the Web. The Internet is just something we utilize in our lives and without it, it would probably be very hard on the economy.

12/9/2015
Diamond Bar, CA
JosephP4
Wong/Lorbeer
I believe that the internet should be a public utility because the world depends on internet. Without the internet nobody would be able to survive because teachers now give homework on the internet, or they make you do other assignments on the internet. If the internet was sped up then it would not affect other companies in a bad way. It would help the company get more customers. For example if there was faster internet then people would get the app and go to that area with the internet. As you can see the internet can help everyone. Without it this generation could not survive.

12/4/2015
Diamond Bar/CA
Zoom P4
Wong/Lorbeer
The internet should be classified as a public utility because our generation is dependent on the internet. Now teachers assign homework on the computers, as you can see my comment. Also in high school and college is when you can not survive without the internet. Learning how to use the internet is a skill now because you will need it. They even have computer classes to show you how to use the internet. The world is changing and we need to too or else we would never advance in life.

10/7/2015
Murrieta
Kevin
Mr. Jabro
Yes the internet should be known as a public utility because everyone uses it. Our generation has become significantly dependent on the internet and asking for money to get a faster item shipped or something like that. Fast lanes shouldn't be a thing this is the land of equality. Small businesses should have a chance to compete with the larger business and then a small business can finally be a greater then a larger business.

6/5/2015
Stroudsburg, PA
Juliet Whidden
Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg JH
Yes, I believe that Internet should be categorized with public utilities. Internet is a service provided by the government, just like water and oil. Everyone should be able and accessible to Internet connection, because in this day and age, it is necessary. It is not a luxury anymore that only the rich have, so everyone should be able to access it. Because of this, Internet service should definitely be considered a public utility.

6/5/2015
Stroudsburg PA
Josh
Mr. Hanna/ Stroudsburg JHS
The internet should be a public utility because it is almost classified as a necessity for most people so most people should be able access it. One service should charge the same rate not different rates. Internet that is sped up wouldn't hurt other businesses because the business could be helped by this company. Internet could help make daily jobs easier.

6/4/2015
Stroudsburg, PA
Kinley
Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
Yes I think the Internet should be classified as a public utility because people use it everyday, when ever they need to. I also think that it won't hurt small businesses but help them because it would make them public. The Internet provides people with information about what ever they need where ever they need it. The Internet can help you with anything and it is very beneficial to the world.

6/4/2015
Stroudsburg, PA
Derek
Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
Yes, I believe that the Internet should be classified as a public utility because new technologies that use or need Internet have become very common in society today. The Internet is a worldwide necessity and is not only a convienience but a tool for most Americans. With new technologies coming out almost every other week, the Internet is becoming more and more necessary. The Internet is a global database that contains information on things that may affect you.

6/4/2015
Stroudsburg, PA
Benny
Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
The internet should be classified as a public utility because the Internet is open to the public and it allows you to search what you want when you want. What's the point of having internet if not everyone is aloud to use it. To answer the question yes it should be classified as a public utility because everyone has the right to surf the Internet.

6/3/2015
Stroudsburg PA
Amber
Mr.Hanna/ Stroudsburg JHS
I think internet should be classified as a public utility because I find internet as a global necessity and tool that is used in many Americans everyday life. I think we should have access to internet in many more places and that with the internet America can become more reliable on the networks and find answers to many questions over their daily routines.

2/12/2015
Westside CA
Angel Arreola
Jabro Creekside
Yes the internet is a infinite database on almost everything you could possibly want to know. Its just like a dictionary, you look up the words you want and find your definition. Or some people like to look up information about sports teams, or national events, or even breaking news. This era will grow up becoming one with technology and start to be using it apart as their everyday life.

1/20/2015
Murrieta. CA
Randy Castle
Jabro/Creekside Highschool
Technically, the internet is already a public utility, since we have to pay for Wi-Fi just to be able to use it. If ISPs are able to change different rates for the same service, I doubt it would matter or continue for very long since everyone will go after the cheapest price. I think it would both lead to increased development and hurt small businesses in favor of larger companies. Larger companies would fund the increasing development, hurting the small businesses.

1/16/2015
Irving
Flor
Bradley/Nimitz
Yes, I believe that the internet should be classified as a public utility. For example, a lot of people use the internet to communicate with family across the globe. Those people have a right to use the internet to do so. Although the development of the web would increase, the debate whether ISP would charge different rates for the same service could possibly hurt small businesses and be in favor of large companies.

1/14/2015
Irving/Texas
Jorge
Bradley/Nimitz
Yes the internet should be known as a public utility because everyone uses it. Our generation has become significantly dependent on the internet and asking for money to get a faster item shipped or something like that. Fast lanes shouldn't be a thing this is the land of equality. Small businesses should have a chance to compete with the larger business and then a small business can finally be a greater then a larger business.

1/13/2015
Irving/TX
Victor
Bradley/Nimitz
Yes the internet should be considered a public utility. It is essential in everyday life in America and therefore should be considered a public utility. No the ISPs should not be allowed to charge different rates for the same service. The internet fast lanes would hurt small businesses as they would favor large companies.

1/9/2015
Murrieta, CA
Justin
Jabro /Creekside Highschool
Yes, the internet should be considered a public utility. I see people all around me complaining about things like this, I don't think any of the people I know would want ISPs to charge different rates for the same service. I personally think that internet fast lanes could potentially destroy small businesses.

1/7/2015
Irving,TX
Martin
Ms.Bradley/ Nimitz High School
When something becomes a public utility the government usually intervenes and regulates it, just like electricity. The internet would become the same for everyone, most likely there will not be any options to increase the speed, and the price would be the same for everyone. ISPs should be able to charge different rates for the same service because if you pay more than someone else there better be some incentive as to why you pay more.

12/18/2014
Irving/TX
Erik
Ms.Bradley/Nimitz High School
The Internet should be and should have been classified as a public utility under Title 2 Article 2 of the telecommunications act of 1996. In present day America the internet is a utility that is essential for every day life in the modern working society. The FCC has the power to stop ISP's from expanding their monopoly and crush smaller business. l

12/17/2014
Murrieta/ CA
Miguel C.
Jabro/ Creekside High School
Yes, and no. Mostly yes, because there's a lot of things that are necessary to know and learn. And a lot of those things we learn come from the internet. But making it seem like "water" & "electricity" is a little bit exaggerated. But a lot of people that stay off the internet aren't always aware of what is going on or aren't exactly opened minded to new things because the internet is where to learn new things that you never knew before.

12/17/2014
Irving/TX
Lee
Bradley/Nimitz
The internet should be classified as a public utility. I don’t really believe the statement that restrictions on ISPs to charge sites for faster connectivity “discourages infrastructure investment and network enhancements”. It sounds a lot like a ploy for internet service providers companies to siphon more money out of businesses and people, which just doesn't sit right with me. A system where making a profit is more important than equal access to information doesn't sit right with me.

12/16/2014
Murrieta , CA
Ziona M
Jabro // creek side
I do believe the internet should be considered a public unity. I also do believe president obama is right about how the internet has become a daily routine for people. ISPs should be able to charge different rates because there is different speeds of the internet and you could charge more for the faster internet .

12/12/2014
Murrieta / CA
Raquell
Mr.Jabro / Creekside Highschool
I believe that the internet should be considered a public utility. President Obama is correct that the internet has became an everyday thing for people. A lot of jobs and schools use internet on a daily basis. Here at Creekside we use computers all class period to get our work done. So I fully agree with it being a public utility. Also ISPs should be able to charge different rates because there is different speeds of the internet and you could charge more for the faster internet. Also their are other companies and to compete with the other companies you need to have the best deal so that you get the most customers. Prioritized content will lead to other companies going out of business if everyone had the internet.There will be too many businesses trying to compete with each other that a lot will go out and there will only be the major companies.

12/12/2014
Irving,TX
Claudia
Bradley/Nimitz
Due to the fact that just about anybody can have access to the internet, it should be considered public. Just like a public park, anybody can “go” to the internet and access it, and use it based on their personal preferences. Also, ISPs should be allowed to charge at different rates for internet, just like any other utility companies charge for their services. Depending on the quality provided, that’s how ISPs should base how much they will be charging. Since bigger, more well-known sites are used more often than smaller ones, the larger sites will need better connection, and therefore should be able to get better connection by paying for better quality. Although some may argue that the situation could become unfair for smaller sites, there would be many unhappy customers that use bigger sites like Netflix if they were to have to use those websites with low connection, and would eventually stop using the sites.

12/11/2014
Irving/Tx
Alex R
Ms.Bradley/Nimitz High School
The internet should be considered a public utility because most Americans would consider it essential to everyday life. Although it is considered a public utility, ISP's should be able to charge different rates for the same service COMPETITIVELY. Just like any phone provider or electric company ISP's should be able to charge for service rates competitively to have customers choose who has the best options at the best price. And the prioritized content will lead to increased development, but will hurt small businesses until the next version of content is passed down at a lower price because the prioritized content got better.

12/9/2014
Irving, TX
Jonathan
Mrs. Bradley Nimitz High School
A public utility is an organization providing consumers with services that everyone needs and is essential in life now a days such as water, gas, electricity, and sewerage. We are in a century where everyone one way or another has access to internet and uses it daily. We use the internet for research, entertainment, social media, and even school where the future of America begins. The internet has been used and simply changing its classification as a public utility will not harm it. ISPs should not be bias towards websites just because of its name, it in terms should be the same all around. The inconsistent charges will confuse and anger or annoy many people, and even though most will pay either way those that do not will continue to grow as the economy is ever-changing. These fast lanes will hurt many companies due to the fact that younger users are in general in a greater amount, so they will in terms make their websites seem like larger companies. All the social websites, game websites, and more will seem to grow while ones of less interest such as news or older and more dull websites shall turn into the minority. So all the prioritizing will hurt everyone in a way or more.

12/8/2014
Irving/TX
Jessica
Ms. Bradley/ Nimitz High School
The internet has been used by everyone and for everything, considering it as a public utility will make no change or difference to it. It is used for social media, research, or just anything random by the people. ISPs should not charge differently for the same type of service, it should be available and charged to anyone the same. If it charges differently, people will see it unfairly and will stop paying. This can lead to losing more money than gaining, especially if the internet service is not well. If they charge it the same and the internet lane is fast, then more people would use the internet.

12/8/2014
Irving Tx
Alejandro
Ms. Bradley Nimitz High School
In a case like this, it would seem having internet equality would be the correct and most obvious choice. However, the internet itself was never designed to be a playing field for equal competition. Originally, this public service , started privately as a way for information to be quickly and easily shared. The internet has since evolved with ISPs who control the flow of bandwidth, selling the fastest speeds to the corporations who can afford and or desire it more than others. Essentially, the ISPs are practicing the economic tactic of price discrimination, selling a similar product at different prices, maximizing efficiency by selling the top tier products to those who desire it most. This tactic is a perfectly valid one, and as the NCTA puts it, allows for innovation within the industry as ISPs vie to be the top seller. While it certainly isn't perfect for the smaller corporations, who may not be able to afford the maximum speeds and services, it's just as fair for the larger corporations who must pay extraordinarily more money for similar access to the internet. Were the idea net neutrality to become a reality, the perfectly competitive system of the internet, which spurs innovation, would become a bland system of equal pay, which would cause ISPs to lack the incentive to push forward and create new services. In the end the issue, isn't should we push for equal services, but are we willing to give up individual ingenuity?

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