While net neutrality has been a term passed around for quite a few years now, there are still large segments of frequent internet users that have no idea what the term really means and how it would potentially affect them. But it is set to have massive long-term ramifications on the way that we use the internet, and what parts of the internet we can be deprived of.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net neutrality is essentially the thing that keeps the Internet, for better or for worse, a democratic space where everyone has a voice. It prevents Internet providers from slowing down speeds for certain websites, blocking others, and being able to charge more for faster speeds. It is, for instance, what protects users from having their Netflix service slowed down because their internet provider may have a partnership with Hulu or some other streaming service, and would stand to profit more from users switching over.
Impact on the Future
The larger scale of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to end net neutrality—which has been recently passed—will have a profound impact on us all. There will be decreased competition leading to lowered innovation. There will be a censorship of free speech and exclusion from certain parts of the digital sphere. Areas of education, journalism, technology, and many others will likely be negatively impacted by this.
Even though many internet providers still insist that they agree with net neutrality in principle, they didn’t agree with the FCC’s decision to reclassify broadband access as a “Title II” carrier service, akin to phone services. However, revoking them from the “Title II” classification ensures that the FCC is unable to exercise any authority to actually enforce net neutrality. So essentially the providers’ argument boils down to “We could throttle your service for increased profit, but we PROMISE we won’t.”
So, What Now?
Despite this setback, there many advocates of net neutrality urging people to voice their dissent via open letters and petitions. While Canadian networks have so far been generally supportive towards net neutrality, it is important for us all to stay vigilant and keep big Internet providers accountable for the sake on an open and democratic Internet.