What is net neutrality?
Net neutrality is the principle that internet providers treat all web traffic equally. Now what this means is that for example, a provider company couldn’t restrict traffic to certain websites(Eg. the websites of their competition) or make it better on others(Eg. by entering a partnership with another business)
What it has done so far:
Now in 2015, the FCC passed the law that providers wouldn’t be able to do this. A provider eg. Comcast wouldn’t be able to charge say Amazon for a faster path to its customers, or block it or slow it down.
Besides blocking this explicitly, this also enabled the government to stop AT&T’s “zero rating” practices. Which is when they made their own app exempt from their data cap, and said video providers could pay for the same privilege.
What providers want, and why:
Internet providers, like AT&T or Comcast want to repeal net neutrality for the most classic reason of all. Money. In essence, allowing companies to pay for faster traffic would bring a massive influx of money into them. Some of the biggest companies these days are tech companies, though if they didn’t pay providers, even they could sink. Imagine a world where it takes 20 minutes to open Google? However if they did pay, that would mean taking that company’s resources away from their product and even marketing, they would have to pay to exist.
What would the consequences of this be?
This would, in effect, kill small businesses. Or at the very least, it definitely could, because small business’ don’t have the money to pay providers for faster traffic. This would also take away power from the customer and put it towards the internet provider, as they’d be able to effectively route traffic away from companies that don’t pay, or their competition.
This also enables the current giants of internet providing an essential monopoly on the field, because most news these days is gained from the internet. As this trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down, internet providers could effectively block traffic to their competition. Or they could enter exclusive partnerships with companies. All this means the field of internet communication would get a lot more stale.
What do big companies want?
Companies like Google are greatly against repealing net neutrality. In general, most companies doing business online are, seeing as it brings needless risk to them. Despite this, some giants have been a lot more lukewarm(Like Netflix that claims it’s “too big” to be affected). The repeal would also enable to, in partnership with internet providers, limit traffic to their competitors in the market. This means that companies like Apple, Netflix or Amazon could have, in effect, an “internet monopoly” over their area. Reducing competition in the market like this can only have an adverse effect on the economy and internet freedom.
But isn’t it like, already over?
No, the fight for net neutrality is still ongoing, the law has passed yes. But the possibility to boycott, or to raise protest is still there. If the people show dissatisfaction, the government will have no choice but to follow.
Student by day, tech writer by night! I’m passionate about all things tech, and working on my 2nd degree.