US regulators plan to upend the internet’s level playing field
It sounds like an issue for tech geeks and legal nerds. But we all have a big stake in net neutrality. Why? Because it ensures equal access to the internet and prevents broadband providers from unfairly favoring their own applications and services.
This level playing field is under threat by new rules proposed by the Chairman of the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, who says his plan will eliminate unnecessary regulation.
Where’s the beef?
Under current net neutrality rules, companies that connect you to the internet are required to treat all content equally. This means you as a consumer are free to choose whichever music or video streaming services you prefer, as well as your favorite social media applications, websites and online games, through your internet service provider (ISP).
Thanks to net neutrality rules, your ISP cannot block, slow, or otherwise control what you see and do online. Nor can it impose priority ‘fast lanes’ for sites that pay a premium, and ‘slow lanes’ for everyone else
Think about it. If you love Netflix, but your ISP has a deal with Hulu, they will make sure that your Netflix is either not available or streams at a snail’s pace. Or, what if your ISP chose to block your preferred news sites in favor of a news app or site they developed themselves, allowing them to filter the news you have access to? No more access to the Washington Post, New York Times or Financial Times for example?
If the FCC dumps net neutrality, this will allow the big cable companies that control broadband access in the US, like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, to charge internet companies for higher-speed access and to block outside services they don’t like. By forcing services and sites to pay higher fees to escape the slow lane, these surcharges would be passed down the value chain to consumers and small businesses alike.
This could do serious harm to small businesses, start-ups and other organizations with limited resources. Small businesses and local retailers have to manage their ‘searchability’ on Google, or pay for ads to compete with big companies like Amazon. Restaurants need to make sure they’re listed on Google Maps, Yelp and TripAdvisor. They could be forced to pay much higher fees or lose out. And, since many of these services are provided internationally, consumers would be affected globally.
What is more, because of the global influence of the United States and its major online companies, repealing net neutrality in the US could pose an existential threat to net neutrality around the world, as other countries follow the US’s lead.
Learn more about net neutrality, before it’s too late, and join the battle for a free internet if you’re in the US!