In light of today’s planned FCC vote to repeal net neutrality, University of North Texas professors are available to discuss the following related topics:
Hua Sun, assistant professor of electrical engineering, can discuss his research on prevention of data tracking, which makes internet usage more efficient.
“We are looking for the most efficient ways of using bandwidth, of using fewer resources and paying less,” Sun said. “My research consists of three areas – private information retrieval, anonymous communications and secure computation. We are in a connected world where we want fast access and to hide our behavior. We want to find a protocol that we can do this and we want to do this efficiently. When you are tracked, you are downloading not only what you want, but a lot of junk. When you prevent this, your efficiency is so high you are only downloading what you want.”
IT expert Leon Kappelman, a professor and chair of the Department of Information Technology and Decision Sciences, can discuss what the repeal might mean for consumers.
Kappelman says that “the biggest problem with net neutrality is the debate surrounding it” – as well as the initial reclassifying of broadband as a common carrier under the Communications Act of 1934.
“Instead of having a serious and civil public policy debate that can lead to a healthy compromise and good policy, we have scare tactics, fear mongering and name calling. Even the name ‘net neutrality’ is misleading.”
“The problem is that regulators put internet regulation under a decades old telecommunications act designed to regulate phone monopolies,” he says. “There is a need for some regulation, but to put them under this law was a mistake. From a public policy perspective, how do we fix that? We need a debate about what the best policy should be. Some carriers are also media companies, so there are anti-competitive issues here too. How should we regulate the internet and what’s in the public interest?”
Kappelman adds that a repeal of the current rule would not necessarily be bad for consumers at all, but that “the big question is, what comes next?
“Just like we have tolled highways and first-class options on airplanes, if companies want to make higher internet speeds possible and people are willing to pay more, then more power to them,” he says.
A creative solution could help, he continues.
“When AT&T was a monopoly, the idea was that everyone should have a telephone, and although it was not cost effective for AT&T to put phones out in rural communities, the law made them do that, which was good. Back then we called it ‘universal coverage’. That was a fair deal back then and maybe there is something similar now where everyone could have good access to the internet. Sadly, today the U.S. lags on broadband quality and coverage.”
As far as prices, Kappelman says that market forces should stabilize things for consumers.
“If I go to my ISP, I would still be able to buy different bandwidths and different speeds,” he says. “The market would provide a solution for customers that cannot afford the high costs. It’s not going to take anything away, it’s just going to provide premium technology and encourage investment for better service. But the anti-competitive concerns need to be dealt with too, and that public policy conversation does not seem to be happening.”