There are many articles floating around about Net Neutrality. It’s a hot topic – and for a good reason. But getting caught up is daunting. Where do you start? What is important? Why does Ajit Pai get roasted on Twitter on a daily basis? Here are your answers: this is your essential guide to Net Neutrality.
Defining Net Neutrality
So, people are telling you that the Internet should be open and networks should be neutral. They don’t mean that the Internet looks best with neutral tones, accent colors and an open-concept layout. What they do mean is that data on the Internet should not be treated differently based on the source of the content or the user viewing it. Essentially, Net Neutrality protects the freedom and equality of information on the Internet. The Internet has always been neutral in the USA; the government has regulated ISPs, limiting their power in terms of how they provide and charge for Internet services. But this may be changing.
If Net Neutrality is Defeated, What Changes?
If Net Neutrality is defeated, there will be an opportunity for Net Bias. This will change the powers allotted to ISPs, giving them flexibility in the quality of service that they can provide to different content providers and consumers. The Internet may become tiered, with higher loading speeds being provided to content providers and consumers that pay more. Internet bills may change, with consumers paying for bundles of websites where they prefer higher speeds, or metering may be introduced, where consumers pay for the Internet based on their usage. Content bingers beware. ISPs will have the power to throttle the bandwidth of websites that do not pay for premium speeds, or simply block content they do not want consumers to see. Website blocking may be fuelled by the political and economic motivations of ISPs – but they wouldn’t do that, right?
Who Will Be Affected By Net Neutrality Changes?
If you are reading this – the changes may affect you. You are an explorer and consumer of the Internet. If you live in the USA, you may see changes to your Internet, depending on your state. If you live elsewhere, ISPs are trying to convince their local governments to get in on the movement against Net Neutrality. In effected areas, any business with an online presence will be impacted – large companies will have to pay extra for data transmission speed prioritization, but the smaller companies and startups that cannot afford this will witness bandwidth throttling. The need for speed will translate to a bandwidth race where only big corporations can afford to win.
Why Is Net Neutrality Being Contended Now?
This history lesson will be faster than premium tiered bandwidth. In 2015, telecom companies filed a lawsuit against the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), disputing their Net Neutrality rules as being overly heavy regulation. In 2016, the Court of Appeals sided with the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules. In early 2017, Ajit Pai became the FCC commissioner under the Trump administration – he quickly set up a proposal to remove certain regulations from ISPs, including Net Neutrality rules. In December of 2017, the FCC voted in favor of removing Net Neutrality, and in February 2018 the FCC revealed their plans to the Senate. The Senate now has a short timeline to find a majority opposition to the FCC’s plans.
When Will Changes Take Effect?
While the effective date of the FCC’s Federal Register filing is April 23, 2018, there are pending lawsuits against the FCC and a Senate ruling that may slow the FCC’s plans. Also, while the FCC may succeed in removing Net Neutrality rules, ISPs will not be forced to change their service and pricing policies, they simply have the option to. The Neutral Net Twitter and #NeedNeutralNet campaign provide timely updates to those interested in the outcome of Net Neutrality rules.