Net Neutrality, or #NetNeutality as it incorrectly trended on Twitter, has captured the hearts of not only the technology industry but also the minds of the everyday internet user.
On 14 December, The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal Net Neutrality in the US. But with many of the most powerful, global technology companies publicly voicing support for the continuation of a free and open internet, what would this regulatory change mean?
Defining Net Neutrality
“The internet is an open playground for creators, not a walled garden for distributors” – Gareth Price, Technical Director, Ready Set Rocket.
Net Neutrality may sound confusing, but the premise is simple: a free, fair, and open internet for all. It’s a guiding principle, which preserves our right to communicate freely online – enabling and protecting free speech.
As Save The Internet explains… “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.”
The principle essentially prohibits internet service providers (ISPs) – such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon in the US – from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, websites or applications. The FFC plans to change regulation in the US, meaning ISPs would no longer be prevented from influencing the way people navigate the internet – the reality likened to a business deal that makes specific digital content either more difficult or more expensive for all to access. However, the FCC argues that this deregulation is necessary to make way for future innovation like the planned development of infrastructure for 5G.
Looking to global markets
For countries such as Nepal that do not follow any Net Neutrality regulatory provisions, users are warned that extra data charges may apply outside of more popular, influential platforms. NCell, a Nepalese mobile ISP, has made Facebook free of data charges, instead charging users for access to the rest of the internet.
India, on the other hand, debated for what are arguably the strongest Net Neutrality regulations. The country followed the pattern of debate, document, and repeat until February 2016 when the ruling was announced forbidding ISPs speeding up or slowing down access to websites, or creating and marketing bundles of websites and applications.
This is a battle for all, that is currently being fought by technology leaders including the inventor of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee, and Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, as well as over 23 million internet users who expressed their opinions through the FCC’s open commenting system.
The decline of Net Neutrality would alter the digital landscape as we know it, so it is important to remember the internet is for everybody – not just those that can afford it. Currently, the FCC’s regulation debate is, in essence, a war of facts.