DIGITALK: The fall of the last guardian – Net Neutrality

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

Net Neutrality has been in the news a lot in the last couple weeks and a lot of you might be wondering what it is and how the absence of it will affect us.

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet the same and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication.

What the removal of this rule means is that the Internet service providers (ISP) can now charge content makers such as YouTube, Netflix, Amazon’s Fire TV extra for high bandwidth use which in turn makes them have to charge the consumer more to access it.

Not only does this mean that ISPs can give preferential bandwidth to those who pay for it, it also means they can throttle the bandwidth for selected services. So those who can’t or refuse to pay the extra tariffs will be slowed down to the point where it’s hard to use those services.

Social media will also suffer due to being high traffic locations, meaning that if they don’t start charging their users to afford the extra costs, we’ll be inundated with so much marketing the sites will be impossible to use.

It will also severely hinder any new forms of media. online business and websites being developed as only the established big brand names will be able to afford to be seen and used. Imagine this 10 years ago when MySpace was big. We’d have no Facebook as only MySpace would have been able to afford the publicity.

It also gives ISPs power to just outright block content. Censorship of the internet. Free speech dies with the abolishment of net neutrality.

But how will all this affect us?

Quite simply it won’t. Not in the UK and EU. Yet….

First off, this law repeal still needs to go through the American courts before it comes into effect and there’s still a slim, miniscule chance it’ll be thrown out as over 50% of both republicans and democrats were opposed to the repeal.

But as the American political system is ‘pay to play’, sponsored largely by big corporations that would benefit from the repeal, they’re highly likely to let it through to appease those holding their purse strings.

Secondly, as much as Americans like to believe it, they don’t rule the world. Their laws won’t affect the rules of the Internet outside of the States and already the EU and British governments have spoken up about not following suit with no intention of ever considering it.

Although as most of the big online players are US based, we may see increases in subscription costs to services to help pay the excess costs.

So in short you’ll be left with the situation where you’ll have to decide just how much of the internet you can afford to use that month, how fast you can afford it to run, and even then some content you’ll never see because it’s been censored… Like the Chinese Internet is which is universally agreed to be unethical.

Why is this happening?

The death of net neutrality is being spearheaded by Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), who claims that rolling back the net neutrality protection will encourage competition and innovation. Despite the fact that when questioned about this he openly admits there are risks in this action.

Essentially, America has found itself in the position that it has a corporate puppet with too much power changing the laws to benefit “former” employers. Verizon. One of the biggest ISPs in the States that have frequently been found to be ignoring net neutrality laws anyway.

A notable occasion was when Comcast throttled the speed of Netflix a couple years ago, being a competitor to their own streaming service, and ransomed the speed of Netflix’s service. It can be seen on several web monitoring sites the moment where the cheque cleared from Netflix and their speed returned to normal.

Currently Verizon is following suit with this throttling practice. And the worst thing is that in rolling back the protection, the FCC is powerless to stop it. They’ve removed the authority to punish this sort of behaviour. At most they can shake a cautionary finger at these corporations and fine them. Which they’ll pay without a second thought and keep doing it as it’ll be pennies in comparison to the profits they will be making.

Does the public want this?

The unanimous consensus is no. When Ajit Pai and the FCC proposed this rollback the feedback was overwhelmingly negative. 83% of Americans including ¾ of republicans opposed the rollback.

There have been many household names getting involved to show their distaste to the proposal including Mark Hamil, Luke Skywalker himself, who was particularly offended that Ajit Pai, in his video meant to calm the fears of the nation about revoking net neutrality, wielded a lightsabre while explaining you’ll still be able to keep up with your favourite fandoms.

“You are profoundly unworthy 2 wield a lightsabre – A Jedi acts selflessly for the common man – NOT lie 2 enrich giant corporations”

You know you’ve done wrong when even a Jedi despises you!

While we won’t be directly affected by the US losing net neutrality protection, we will feel the blow back from it in the future. It’s not going to be immediate, as the corporations know they’ll be ostracised if they are the first to start taking advantage of their new freedoms to pillage the pockets of consumers, but it’ll come.

Ross Tibbles

Author: Ross Tibbles

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