In a classic battle between the little guys and the big corporations, net neutrality has been a recurring point of conflict. Net neutrality is the principle that internet traffic should be treated uniformly by every service provider rather than certain types of data receiving special priority. In the past few years, the debate has been coming up more and more, and it is expected that the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) will make some changes under Donald Trump’s oversight.
Most voices you’ve heard will probably have argued in favour of net neutrality, and that makes sense as it almost unilaterally favours all citizens. What that doesn’t take into account is the strong pull corporations have with the government and how lobbying can effect change in the laws.
The debate can be better explained when you get an idea of the changes that could occur. Think about all the different data that is transmitted by way of the Internet. You have email, Netflix, Google searches, app downloads, and many more categories. As this article states, if one of these was given a special priority, it would create a “class” system of internet usage that would help broadband providers, but hurt consumers.
Consumers end up getting hurt by the lack of net neutrality in one of two ways. First, because certain usage is receiving special priority, that means that they receive a lesser priority on some things and have to wait longer to load it. Then, if they find that the Internet is working too slowly for their needs, they may decide to upgrade their service capabilities in order to get back to “normal”. This is essentially a shakedown and should be considered unacceptable by any legal system founded on the power of fairness.
There have been several “near misses” in the world of net neutrality before, but they were all averted due to effective protesting and having the right people in charge. The big changes that might occur amount to the legal distinction between a telecommunications service and a legal service. This article talks about the differences and how through simple manipulation of the law, corporations may be able change the entire structure of the Internet so that net neutrality rules no longer apply to the open Internet.
This is clearly an intolerable outcome and something must be done to stop it. If the nondiscrimination requirements on the open Internet disappear, then net neutrality will be over as we know it and the broadband providers will be able to collect more rents in their already strong monopoly.