With the availability of streaming services like Netflix and YouTube the average data downloaded per internet user is on the rise. This means that internet providers (IPs) around the world are required to accommodate these habits with unlimited data promotions but that does not mean these companies are happy about it. Many providers have developed tricks such as slowing down internet speeds when accessing sites like Netflix. Providers can even use the internet as a tool to create an unfair advantage by making the data used when streaming from their own services not count towards the user’s limit. Fortunately, many countries have a net neutrality law that makes these tactics illegal however the United States is proposing a bill that would end net neutrality, potentially creating a dark time for the internet.
First what is net neutrality? A term first used by Columbia University professor Tim Wu, net neutrality is the idea that all data should be created equally in the world wide web. This means that internet providers could not block or limit access to certain services or slow the speed down for sites deemed to use higher amounts of data.
Now companies like Verizon and AT&T are arguing these laws punish rather than reward their innovation to create new services and that if net neutrality laws are eliminated they would be able to work more efficiently which can allow them to make their services more affordable to more people. For those that are concerned about the consequences of removing the law they simply say the free market will prevent them from making policies too restrictive as customers can simply take their business elsewhere. The problem is that in most parts of the world, including the U.S, due to the extreme cost of setting up an internet infrastructure there are usually very few providers available to clients. If you do not like what your provider is doing, chances are you will be out of luck.
The most startling thing about this law is that it can have implications far across it’s border. As the U.S is one of the largest internet users with access to unrestricted internet, many companies would be forced to adapt to this new law to be viable in the U.S, forcing them to spend more money on contracts with IPs rather than on new content. It can also be difficult for internet start-ups to enter the U.S market as they would likely not be able to afford to pay off the IPs in the U.S.
With the Republican majority, the Federal Communications Commission the bill’s passing is a certainty but that does not mean the fight is over. Fortunately, companies like Google, Netflix and Facebook have all protested the bill and will hopefully out of principle refuse to play along with the IP’s games once this new law is passed and countries around the world are keeping their laws in tact. For now, we can only hope that this new law becomes nothing more than a piece of paper, our livelihood around the internet depends on it.
Kastrenakes, J. (2017). FCC announces vote to destroy net neutrality next month. The Verge. Retrieved from https://www.theverge.com/2017/11/21/16680290/fcc-end-net-neutrality-vote-announced
Griffin, A. (2017). Donald Trump Plans Total Repeal of Net Neutrality Law that Keeps the Internet Free. Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/trump-net-neutrality-repeal-internet-rules-fcc-free-latest-news-ajit-pai-a8067811.html
Wu, T. (2003). “Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination” (PDF). Journal on telecom and high tech law. Retrieved 23 Apr 2014.
Finley, K. (2017). Here’s how the End of Net Neutrality Will Change the Internet. Wired. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/story/heres-how-the-end-of-net-neutrality-will-change-the-internet/