When you go online you have certain expectations. You expect to be connected to whatever website you want. You expect that your cable or phone company isn’t messing with the data and is connecting you to all websites, applications and content you choose. You expect to be in control of your internet experience.
When you use the internet you expect Net Neutrality.
Net neutrality is the internet’s guiding light. It is the principle that internet service providers (AT&T Internet, Verizon, Comcast, Rogers, Bell) must treat all data on the internet equally, and not discriminate or charge differently depending on user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication.
Under these principles, internet service providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down or charge more for specific websites and online content.
Here is a real-world example – Comcast the service provider, and NBC the television network are affiliated. Comcast would probably like to promote NBC’s content over ABC’s to its internet subscribers since there is a real incentive for NBC to outperform ABC. Net neutrality prevents Comcast from being able to discriminate content over its network, and it must display both NBC’s and ABC’s content evenly as a result. This means no slower load time for ABC, and definitely no blocking of ABC altogether.
So, what is the issue? IT’S POLITICAL!
In December 2017 – the Federal Communications Commission voted to scrap the Obama-era net neutrality rules. The rules prevented internet service providers from favouring some content over others. Essentially turning internet packages into cable packages where you have to pay your service provider more for certain services and channels.
The FCC’s vote underlined the partisan politics that have shaped the net neutrality debate: the agency’s three Republican commissioners voted in favour of repeal, while the two Democrats on the five-member commission voted to keep the rules.
A case for net neutrality:
Net neutrality creates an even playing field among content providers — both large and small.
Net neutrality is good for consumers because they can access everything they want online for no extra charge.
Net neutrality gives consumers the “whole library” and without it, Comcast, Rogers and Bell could be the masters who dictate exactly what we’re able to view online.
A case against net neutrality:
Free data – maybe… Getting rid of net neutrality would allow service providers (AT&T, Rogers) to charge content providers (Netflix, Buzzfeed, Google). Enter, sponsored data. The additional revenue stream might mean free data plans for consumers. Never paying for a data sounds pretty nice.
Financial benefits for telecommunications companies – obviously.
What does this mean?
No one is exactly sure just yet, but there is no shortage of speculation. Most simply, the elimination of net neutrality means that internet providers can technically carve up service into “fast”, “slow” and “blocked” lanes, charging more for higher speeds, specific websites, and applications.
Did you see any images like this on Instagram in December?
This image was a rally cry from Instagrammers to protect net neutrality. It provided a stark glimpse of what an internet with no regulation might look like. Looks like it could get expensive, right?
Does this affect ME?
Yes and No.
Not really, because…
- This is an American repeal and we have our own rules in Canada.
- In Canada, we will continue to get the “whole internet.”
But yes, because…
- We can expect to pay more for the American (all) services we love – if Netflix has to pay to ensure people have access to it, you can bet that that will trickle down into higher monthly fees. Same goes for Spotify.
- Censorship – Bell has already filed proposals for censorship to start blocking content (things that undermine their content and cable efforts).
- More and fiercer competition – this will make it harder for Canadian businesses to compete in the U.S. If companies in the U.S. have to pay to play, what do you think will happen to Canadian businesses marketing online in the U.S.?
Worst case scenario
In Portugal, there are no net neutrality rules and broke out internet packages already exist. The other countries without net neutrality enforcement include Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, France, Israel, Italy, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and Slovenia.
What if MORE options actually mean less?
Here is an example of a data package – remember this if for the internet. This is unheard of in Canada right now but could be our reality in the future. What package would you choose?
At the end of the day, net neutrality is big deal. Although no one can say for sure what is going to happen to the days of an “open internet”, there is enough information to cause concern that this move might not in the “peoples” best interest. Time will tell.
Do you think Net Neutrality is a good idea? Contact us, we would love to talk to you about it!