Net Neutrality – How does it impact you?

The idea of net neutrality is that everyone has equal access to all websites, online content and platforms. Specific websites can’t be blocked or slowed down or given preferential treatment by ISPs (Internet Service Providers).

Net neutrality impacts companies and you in these ways.  Large corporations can pay extra so they can be loaded more quickly. Consumers can be forced to pay higher costs for access to certain sites. Consumers can be blocked from certain websites based on the decision of their ISPs. Additionally, smaller companies that can’t afford to pay higher costs will have less visibility.

According to The Telegraph, a UK based newspaper and website, of the 7.125 billion people in the world, 3.2 billion are Internet users. Only 34% of households in the developing world have the Internet, while 82% of households in the developed world have Internet connection. So really, there are two issues – getting the whole world access to the Internet and once they have it making sure the access is equal and fair.

The EU passed a net neutrality protection law in 2015 that, according to The Telegraph, does provide some protection but has many “loopholes” that give favouritism to certain companies like Facebook and Twitter and, also, allows providers to manipulate the speed of your Internet.  In the article, Professor Barbara Van Schewick, director of Stanford’s Centre for Internet and Society, said US regulations do a better job at protecting consumers than the EU laws. However, this may soon change.

Currently, in the US, there are regulations, established in 2015, in place to define high speed Internet as a public utility and require open, equal accessibility for all websites to all consumers. These regulations are managed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which is an independent agency of the US Government.  It regulates communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. These regulations provide for affordable connectivity, equal and fair access to the entire Internet and privacy protection. They prevent the so-called fast lanes that websites can pay for.

With a new administration in place, the FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, has recommended sweeping changes which eliminate the most basic net neutrality protections, according to an article published in the New York Times on November 21, 2017.  This change will allow ISPs to charge more and block access to websites as well as significantly impact consumer protection.  In the article, Pai was quoted as saying that net neutrality is an example of government overreach and that consumers will not be negatively impacted by regulation elimination.

What’s your opinion?  How important is net neutrality? What does it mean to you?