The way we use the internet today might be in for a radical change soon. Net neutrality is an invaluable principle that gives us the right to free communication within the web. Unfortunately, it seems to be in danger. Let's see what net neutrality is, and how its repeal, which has a worryingly high chance of occurring on December 14th, can utterly ruin the internet as we know it.
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What is Net Neutrality
Net neutrality is the fundamental principle which forces internet providers and competent authorities to treat all content within the internet equally.
From a technical standpoint, net neutrality is a term that describes a specific state of computer networking. When a network is “neutral,” all different types of data have the same priority level.
The internet is, in essence, a vast network of computers. As such, net neutrality dictates that all data coming from any webpage and any service is entirely equal. All data packets hold the same weight and are not subject to lower transfer speeds based on their type.
In other words, net neutrality prevents discrimination, as well as arbitrary charges based on the user, content, website, platform, application, and type of connected equipment or communication method.
Things change without net neutrality. The Internet Service Providers (ISPs) would have the legal right to block or slow down websites and content on the internet. They wouldn't even have to provide any reason or excuse for their actions.
Net neutrality protects us from such types of abuse. With net neutrality, nobody can prevent us from accessing any website visible to the public. And there are no artificial access speed limits, slowing down specific websites with any criteria.
Net neutrality is apparently essential as far as our personal liberties are concerned. That aside, it's also necessary for anyone wishing to create their own website.
In essence, net neutrality gives every creator a valuable guarantee. It ensures that their website will have equally free access to internet users, no matter their political, religious, or other convictions.
Who wants net neutrality repealed
Everything starts with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the United States. It has been setting the stage for a bill vote on December 14, 2017. This bill would practically spell the end of net neutrality in the U.S.
The mastermind behind this heinous procedure is, of course, Donald Trump's administration, which has sparked numerous adverse reactions among the public. They seem to want to repeal Obama-era regulations.
The driving force is the head of the FCC, Ajit Pai. “Coincidentally,” he is a former legal counselor for Verizon.
Verizon is one of the most well-known telecommunications giants in the United States. Unsurprisingly, they would be among the top entities that would benefit from repealing net neutrality.
Recently, Pai even “joked” about how he was Verizon's puppet in a “comedic” sketch he participated.
Many people believe that the telecommunications industry, the oligopoly in which large companies such as Verizon and Comcast take part in, is directing us towards the repeal of equal access regulations.
In other words, they control the FCC — the organization that is supposed to be monitoring them instead.
What happens after the repeal of net neutrality
Without net neutrality, the internet might be in for a radical change.
Internet providers will be able to transform the internet into a completely different environment. One where access will be fast and free only for the websites they choose. Every other site would pretty much be painfully slow.
In other words, we will have a two-speed internet.
Clarifying one thing is essential. The two-speed internet won't have the end consumer paying the extra fees for access to the internet. That would be a burden each website will have to deal with separately.
For example, a provider could be getting paid by Microsoft so that Bing loads faster. However, the independent DuckDuckGo, which doesn’t have the same financial capabilities, would be unbearably slow.
In short, websites that belong to large corporations which have the money to get them into the “fast lane” will be much faster and more efficient.
On the contrary, smaller competitive websites and services will be in rough shape. Those that can’t or won't pay for preferential treatment, will end up being slow for all users.
At the same time, it’s almost certain that all ISPs will follow suit. There’s even a chance that a provider could strike a deal with Microsoft, making Bing much faster than Google. We can all agree that this is a nightmare no one wants to imagine.
At the end of the day, internet providers aside, everyone else loses.
- Multinational companies would have to pay extra for faster internet access.
- Small to medium sized websites that can’t or won't pay will be slow. Many of them will unavoidably shut down completely.
- We will have our options radically limited as consumers. That makes for a worse experience, which, for the most part, would be terribly slow.
However, the financial aspect is just one side of the coin. An ISP could also slow down or completely shut down content produced by its competitors. It could block websites with political or religious disagreements.
As such, it’s made evident that repealing net neutrality would have catastrophic consequences for social groups fighting against systemic discrimination, as well as activists who resist oppression.
As mentioned, repealing net neutrality would have several implications for most websites. That aside, there are also a few additional things ordinary users will have to face.
Secret slowing, also known as “throttling,” is a major common concern as to what may follow the FCC’s bill.
In simple terms, as soon as an ISP detects a P2P (peer-to-peer) program from its users, it can considerably slow down the downloading of data, or even block it.
As a result, torrents which we download under the BitTorrent protocol will be painfully slow or will stop altogether. That would mean the internet would only work for accessing websites.
Fear of “throttling” has been around long before the undermining of net neutrality had begun. If that regulation is repealed, it’s almost certain that P2P file transfers will be one of the first victims.
After all, which organization would ever pay extra, so we can download movies faster?
The end of sports live streaming
Reddit, with its 542 million monthly users, is most likely a familiar name to most of us. You may also know that it provides unlimited, reliable, free live streaming for almost every sport out there.
No more free Champions League or other major worldwide football championships. No more NBA with Genti stream’s high-quality streaming.
Unfortunately, this is the fate many sites that live stream sports might end up facing. The result is obvious. Since most certified streamers will seize operations, all users will be affected. Geographic location won't matter.
Reddit has published an announcement related to the impending doom of sports live streaming as we know it. Consequently, net neutrality as well.
How we can fight back
There is a tiny amount of time remaining until the voting of the FCC's bill. A bill which is certain to undermine net neutrality in the United States. As such, that doesn’t leave much room for a reaction, especially from non-US citizens.
Despite that, hundreds of thousands of users have been monitoring the situation. Those users make their concerns and protests public through the well-known Battleforthenet website.
Several protests took place on the 7th of December, only a few days before the vote on December 14, 2017.
Are you worried about the undermining of net neutrality?
Net neutrality is most definitely a valuable idea and commodity. It's the principle that all information is to be treated equally. That is as close as modern humans have ever gotten to real democracy.
However, telecommunications companies that already behave like virtual monopolies have great power. Enough power to help rewrite rules and regulations without the inclusion of this ideal, just so their power and profits can increase further.
ISPs are the internet’s key-holders by definition. Without net neutrality, it is all but certain that they will attempt to profit as much as possible from their position.
Providers claim they won’t do such things by undermining net neutrality. Do you trust them, though?
If you have any questions or would like to share your opinion on this important matter, let us know in the comments below.
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