Net Neutrality Rolled Back in the United States
Net Neutrality or the open internet is the principle that internet service providers should give consumers access to all legal content and applications on an equal basis, without favouring some sources or blocking others.
In the United States, the FCC recently ruled to reverse a previous legislation which classified the internet as a utility. This change has put the power into the hands of ISPs to determine the future of the internet. A possible consequence of this is that internet subscribers could have to pay additional subscription fees to access the websites that they were previously using for free. Costs for internet access could quickly rise for consumers if they have to pay additional fees to access email, social media, browse online news, stream video and play online games – similar to how cable TV subscriptions are now sold. ISPs could be free to discriminate against web traffic by slowing internet speeds to sites that they do not own or that users do not pay extra for – and if they don’t like certain content or certain websites, they could completely block access to those sites.
This helpful article from The Verge points out that ISPs will have to inform users if they want to block websites, throttle internet connections or charge some websites more. The article also looks into how large American ISPs including Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and more treat net neutrality and how they may act in the future.
This decision by the FCC has been slammed by representatives from tech companies including Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Netflix, Reddit & Vimeo. Any web-based business could now be at the mercy of ISPs to allow users to access their services.
The loss of net neutrality may become a large issue for gamers who rely on fast internet speeds to remain competitive, as any gamer who has experienced lag in an online game knows that it is very frustrating.
Luckily for Canadians, our government has taken a stand to protect net neutrality. At a recent question period, Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science & Economic Development stated “Our government stands to support net neutrality. We support an open Internet. We support the CRTC framework for net neutrality, because we know an open Internet is critical for our economy and our democracy.” It is encouraging to see the Canadian government stand up for the rights of all internet users.
Only time will tell how the loss of an open internet in the United States will affect the digital world, but residents there could be in for a shock once ISPs start to make changes.