Net Neutrality has been on a lot of minds lately. But as of this week in the U.S., Net Neutrality is no more.
What does that mean for the average person, and your favorite website surfing habits? At this point, it waits to be seen. But many people, including consumer advocacy groups, tech companies, lawyers and activists have been against the talk of repealing Net Neutrality. And with the old act now repealed, they aren’t too happy.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is a set of rules (known as the Open Internet Order) that promoted an open internet where consumers could freely roam and ISPs couldn’t discriminate against certain web surfers.
The Open Internet Order of 2015 was meant to keep ISPs from blocking or prioritizing traffic. In the U.S. today, about 29% of people have no access to high-speed wired internet and 47% only have one choice for an ISP. Open Internet had enabled a monopoly of sorts for internet providers who could charge whatever they wanted to customers who had to pay or be without internet.
So in 2017, a new push was made to deregulate the internet market as a way of providing improved service and accessibility to consumers. In an effort to create a more competitive internet market (and cheaper rates for customers), the U.S. has repealed the rules that maintained a neutral, open web.
What does internet freedom look like?
For many years, ISPs have discriminated against web users by blocking them from doing certain activities, connecting certain apps or downloading material that wasn’t in the service provider’s best interest.
The new ruling prevents ISPs from prioritizing preferred customers, websites or content over others. But it doesn’t prevent them from charging customers extra for visiting or downloading content from certain websites. And therein lies the question of whether the end of Net Neutrality will actually be in the best interest of web users who may now be faced with more charges for visiting certain sites. Under the new ruling, ISPs can choose to charge customers more to access certain content or websites like high-traffic and high quality sites (think Facebook and Netflix).
Net Neutrality is a global issue
The question of Net Neutrality isn’t just a U.S. issue. Even as the U.S. now battles with what internet deregulation means for web users across the nation, the world is embracing increased regulation.
In Brazil, ISPs are given power to favor some traffic over other if networks are overloaded or need to be used for emergency services. However, since the country doesn’t stay on top of who is following and who is violating the rule, there’s nothing preventing ISPs from favoring certain web users and websites over others. But this “freedom” for ISPs to essentially do as they wish has inhibited freedom of users by prioritizing access to websites owned by their partner companies and large corporations.
European consumers have been well-protected by Net Neutrality rules in which the E.U. requires equal treatment for online traffic. But ISPs have the ability to enforce restrictions on an as-needed basis to facilitate network security and free up access for emergency services. In 2017, the country affirmed the importance of monitoring whether or not ISPs were complying or taking advantage of the rules to block or prioritize access in their favor.
The emerging tech economy has taken a decisive stance on balancing out the needs of consumers and corporations alike. Like the E.U., the country has laws (and enforces them) in place to prevent ISPs from discriminating against web users for data use or content viewed.
Net Neutrality is trending around the world. And though the U.S. has been a trailblazer in many ways, this highly contested new law may just put it behind many countries that believe a more regulated internet is in a consumers’ best interest. While this week is seeing the start of a new era for the internet, the long-term effects and success of it are still up for debate—especially if the American people have anything to say about it.