The Internet is a chaotic place with few rules, but there is one gold standard: Net neutrality.
Put simply, this concept promises that all pieces of online content should be treated the same. So it should, in theory, be just as easy for users to find and visit YouTube as it is to go to Craigslist. This means that neither site should be allowed to pay an Internet service provider to restrict the traffic flow to the other site, or speed up the flow of traffic to their own, nor should they be limited or favored by the service provider for any other reason.
This concept has long been the guiding philosophy of the Internet, but now two of the most influential and popular companies in the world are about to undermine it, along with their reputations.
Google (Stock Quote: GOOG) and Verizon (Stock Quote: VZ) announced Monday that they reached an agreement on a new set of guidelines, which they plan to suggest to the Federal Communications Commission in the hopes of protecting net neutrality going forward. According to their proposal, “For the first time, wireline broadband providers would not be able to discriminate against or prioritize lawful Internet content, applications or services in a way that causes harm to users or competition.”
To ensure this is the case, the policy, if enacted, would allow the FCC to penalize any Internet service provider who shows signs of favoring or limiting access to a particular site with a fine of as much as $2 million.
Yet, while this seems like a step in the right direction, The Huffington Post says the plan contains a “giant, enormous, science-fiction-quality loophole.” In fact, it contains two.