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Net Neutrality

Posted by admin on November 8, 2018

 

The internet has become a staple in near enough every household, people can access the internet through their phones, laptops, tablets, consoles, computers and even TV’s and smart watches – and in roughly the past 10 years, a topic has been sparked in regards to network (or net) neutrality. This mainly began when Donald Trump came into administration, appointing Ajit Pai head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Who is Ajit Pai you may ask? Ajit Pai was a former lawyer for Verizon (a big player in the internet market in the US) and since being appointed chairman of the FCC he has made it clear he wishes to see net neutrality abolished due to his desire to see “more competition among broadband providers”. He set the wheels in motion in order to repeal net neutrality and managed to succeed, despite protests from tech companies, special interest groups, lawmakers, and individuals alike.

 

What is net neutrality and why is it important?

 

To begin with, let’s discuss what net neutrality is. It is defined as the lack of regulations placed on the internet and therefore internet service providers – as long as a website isn’t classified as illegal, it’s available for anyone on the internet to access. This could range from social websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram to uncensored forums such as Reddit and 4chan among others. Noticeably so, freedom of speech exists on these websites, along with near enough every other website as there are no rules governing the internet and what can be placed on the internet, only what can or rather should be blocked by internet service providers such as black market websites and other illegal subjects. With net neutrality being abolished, certain sites would take longer to load, or would even require special paid plans to access.

 

Who profits from the end of net neutrality?

 

Simply put, internet service providers profit from the end of net neutrality because as it currently stands, regardless of what we use the internet for, be it high-definition video streaming websites such as Netflix or Hulu, or games that require a continuous stream of steady internet, users do not get charged extra for the data load they are using, or how much of it they use. Users who also believe that the internet offers too much ‘freedom of speech’ would benefit from net neutrality ending as it would make it less likely for offensive content to be posted freely, as well as the odds of a younger audience being able to find the content, less possible. Even companies that have money to burn, are capable of paying off internet service providers in order to help their websites or applications load much faster in comparison to that of their competitors, making it easier for them to drive traffic to themselves.

 

Who’s affected?

 

One of the main concerns of a lack of net neutrality, is that the internet will no longer be considered a safe-haven for innovative ideas and up and coming companies, as if they decide to, internet service providers can charge companies in order to deliver their content to the individuals, making it difficult for start-ups to facilitate the funds in order to play alongside competitors who have established their brand and have the funds. Another issue is that individuals who would like to receive said services may be charged a consumption fee thereby increasing their monthly spending dependent on what services they would like to use. End users will be hit the hardest, as the internet subscriptions paid today will increase considerably once everyone will have to pay for specific website packs and faster loading times.

 

Legal and political setting

 

Since the 1970’s, the FCC has tried promoting and sustaining open networks – and this remained to be the case even during Obama’s presidency, where he believed the internet should remain to be open and therefore passed regulations in 2010 alongside the FCC Chairman at the time, Julius Genachowski, prohibiting internet service providers from blocking online content, and requiring them to be more transparent with their policies. However, since then, in 2017, during Trump’s presidency, the FCC (currently Chaired by Ajit Pai) has abandoned their quest in order to sustain open networks, eliminating rules that prevent internet service providers from blocking, slowing down or even prioritizing one website or service over another. Currently as it stands, net neutrality is dead – and there are means to reinstate them, with over two dozen US states considering or pushing legislation to reinstate net neutrality within their borders, however it is expected that until Democrats take control of the White House in 2020, not much can be done in terms of a universal agreement.

 

In conclusion, whilst there are advantages to net neutrality ending for the internet service providers in terms of an added revenue as well as big companies, there are also disadvantages for smaller companies, consumers and the overall basic principles of the internet – as it was created to be unregulated and allow for freedom of speech and freedom to browse. Whilst there are advocates, the majority of users are believed to be against the newfound rules, and would like to see net neutrality reinstated as it was perfected back in 2014 when the FCC requested internet users to help them come up with a set of rules that would be accepted by not only them, but also the internet service providers.