Published : 27/07/2017
Whilst this topic is currently on the brink of a major decision across the pond, make no mistake this is also a major issue for ourselves here in the UK.
Some of you may have heard of the term, ‘Net Neutrality’, whilst some may mistake it with other attempts at controversial bills such as SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) or PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act); Net Neutrality is something that is currently enjoyed by millions of people in the US, and indeed by billions of others across the globe.
In 2015 the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) with the support of the Obama administration introduced new regulations relating to Net Neutrality, which in effect put ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) in the same group as other telecommunications companies. This change reflected the wide and extensive campaign led by many activist groups and other US based global tech companies.
Now the very same FCC are seeking to end Net Neutrality, driven by the new White House administration who are vocal critics of the current rules, and have appointed a new Chair of the FCC – none other than a significant Net Neutrality opponent, Ajit Pai.
What is Net Neutrality?
It is the guarantee that the communications vendor that supplies your internet connection, will not prioritise certain traffic over others. Specifically, it is the guarantee that it will not prioritise its own services, over those of its competitors. As you can imagine, as large companies such as Google, Twitter, etc. hold significant influence in key areas relating to technology, they do not have any control over how their services and data arrives at your device – either over a mobile or broadband network. Experiencing a consistent and determined slow connection to the internet can be crippling, both for individuals or businesses alike. Just because as an individual you happen to prefer an alternative social network or communications platform, or as a business you offer a competitor’s services.
Why is it important?
Well, the internet is a new and exciting environment for businesses and the public alike. It has the power to start and grow businesses from family garages to Silicon Valley and beyond. It is the fabric and network of communications for today and tomorrow. It is the one place on Earth (albeit a virtual one) where nationality, race, religion, sexuality, politics, etc., do not hang over a business or individual as a cloud and cause them to be held back. It is an example of progress and our future. To this end, it must remain a free and open Internet, a place with equality at its heart.
Opponents of Net Neutrality complain that these types of regulations stiffen investment and revenues, therefore hindering the growth of national infrastructure and quality internet access to all, either in the metropolitan or rural areas. They believe that if ISP’s cannot raise revenues from consumers, they will have no monies to invest in the improvement of their infrastructure. However, the counter-argument is that the lure of online services is where the revenues comes from in the first place: streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Video or YouTube, or social networking such as Facebook and Google+, or any of the corporate or public services offered by many of the Tech Companies that actively support Net Neutrality. Companies such as Google, Netflix, Amazon, Twitter, Mozilla, Vimeo, to name just a few. Consumers will pay for an Open Internet, which is fair and equal to all, not because of the specification of the ISP’s infrastructure, but for the services and communications that are available beyond it.
July 12th was a day of protest and making a stand in the US. Many of these companies did so by showing simulated loading images, or temporarily throttling back their connection speeds to highlight just how debilitating the end of Net Neutrality could become.
Groups such as Fight for the Future and Demand Progress are helping to lead the campaign against these changes. Please consider providing them with your support on the following Battle for the Net online petition, if you deem it worthy.