On Thursday 14th December 2017, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) in the US will be sitting down to vote on a new bill that does away with net neutrality.
What Net Neutrality is
Net neutrality, or network neutrality, is the idea that internet service providers (ISPs), including cable companies and wireless providers should treat all internet traffic equally. It says your ISP shouldn’t be allowed to block or degrade access to certain websites or services, nor should it be allowed to set aside a “fast lane” that allows content favored by the ISP to load more quickly than the rest. (Source: Vox.com)
‘The core net neutrality rules prevent ISPs from blocking, throttling, or prioritizing Internet content in exchange for payment. The ISPs’ status as common carriers allows consumers to complain if the ISPs charge unjust or unreasonable prices, a stopgap meant to prevent truly egregious behavior.’ – Arstechnica
What the vote means
Voting for stricter regulations of the internet will make it easier for ISPs to charge extra fees to access certain features of the internet.
Advocates argue that network neutrality lowers barriers to entry online, allowing entrepreneurs to create new companies like Facebook, Dropbox, and Uber, but critics warn that regulations could be counterproductive, discouraging investment in internet infrastructure and limiting the flexibility of ISPs themselves to innovate. (Source: Vox)
Where can you protest
Some tech companies like Reddit, Etsy and Kickstarter have been vocal about protecting net neutrality, but some like Facebook and Google have been quite quiet about it. According to the New York Times, Harold Feld, Public Knowledge’s Senior Vice president, a nonprofit group that supports net neutrality, said the biggest tech companies were less vocal because they were facing more regulatory battles than in past years. Social media sites (*cough* Facebook) have been criticized for allowing foreign actors to interfere in the presidential election of 2016. The biggest tech companies also face complaints from some lawmakers that they have become too large and powerful.
Feld: “First, the major tech companies are very aware that Washington has turned hostile. In this environment, the big tech companies try to keep a low profile and play defense rather than take positions that draw attention.
How does this affect you?
Well, seeing as most of the large tech firms have their reach here, any changes made over in the West have the capacity of trickling down everywhere. You may be required to pay extra fees for accessing certain content, no matter where you are in the world, or you may experience throttling by ISPs of certain sites like Netflix in favor of another TV streaming service. you’re an app maker? Ok. Imagine paying a data provider extra money so they can make your app available to their subscribers to use on their network?!
The open internet as we know it may perish, restricting users on what they can see or do with it, and increase their spend on data.
The vote is being headed by FCC’s Chairman, Ajit Pai, who is a former lawyer for Verizon wherre he worked on regulatory matters. this move is being termed pro-competitive. US citizens will have to challenge the FCC by going to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) to protect their interests as consumers.
We can be hopeful however that many companies will stand up to sue the FCC for its decision if it repeals the net neutrality laws.