On 12th July 2017, many popular websites will be taking a stand against the proposed changes to US rules which govern net neutrality.
Huge tech companies, such as Amazon, will ‘slow down’ their services in protest against the proposed changes. The idea is to mimic what could happen if the current net neutrality rules are overturned. Tech giants Facebook and Twitter will also be backing the campaign.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net neutrality refers to the concept that an internet service provider (ISP) should give consumers equal access to all legal content, regardless of its source.
It prevents ISPs from speeding up of slowing down data from certain websites, because they have been paid to do so.
The BBC website provided a great analogy: “If the networks which form the bedrock of the internet were a motorway, then under net neutrality, there wouldn’t be fast lanes for cars and slow lanes for lorries. Motorists wouldn’t be able to pay to use a faster route. All data regardless of its size, is on a level playing field.”
In favour of Net Neutrality…
Those in favour of net neutrality say it’s a matter of fairness. They believe that the ISPs should just concentrate on providing the ‘pipes’ for the data – why should they be allowed to have any say over what content flows to consumers (as long as it’s legal)?
They believe that the internet is – and should remain – a basic telecommunication service, which is treated like a public utility. And imposing sanctions on it would create an unfair and biased service for something that should be equally available to everyone.
And those opposing Net Neutrality…
Those against net neutrality seek a reclassification of internet access as a basic telecommunications service, arguing that the current laws are outdated.
They feel that net neutrality heaves an unnecessary restriction on business, which hampers investment in new technology.
Additionally, ISPs argue that the way in which we use the internet today, such as the amount of data we consume for watching video content, costs more to carry. They don’t feel it’s fair that bearing the cost of such bandwidth-hungry services should fall solely to them.
How does this affect us in Europe?
In April, the European Parliament voted to restrict ISPs from charging services for faster network access. It also ruled against mobile and broadband network providers being able to block other services that competed with them.
This could potentially become law by the end of the year.
How will Net Neutrality affect me?
This may be a US decision, but it’s consequences will have a ripple-effect. Technology reporter Jane Wakefield summed it up perfectly – “depending on which way the decision goes, it could either hurt your wallet or your watching habits.”
If the current net neutrality laws are upheld, there is the potential for ISPs to pass on the cost of delivering bandwidth-hungry data by upping the cost they charge for monthly net access.
If the decision rules in favour of ISPs, they will be able to charge fees for prioritised access to certain content â€“ meaning that certain website will be on a permanently go-slow. Consumers could also be charged more by content providers who have been forced to pay more to the ISPs to deliver their content in the first place.
Still not convinced?
Think about this – Netflix recently agreed to pay a fee to Comcast and Verizon. Consequently, they put the price up of their monthly streaming service in Europe and America.
What happens when the Federal Communications Commission make their final decision will affect us all in one way or another – and it’s implications could potentially influence history.