Article

David Bloxham
David Bloxham 28 April 2017
Categories Technology

Net Neutrality, The Opposition and How It Could Affect the Internet

Net neutrality has caused much debate, and with FCC chairman Ajit Pai potentially scrapping the current system this week, we look at what this could mean for the internet.

One minute Trump was for net neutrality. Now he opposes it. Net neutrality is where internet service providers (ISPs) provide everyone with open and equal access to online networks. In other words, there are no disruptions to the content you view or post online, you’re not only provided with content that your ISP agrees with and charges aren’t incurred depending on the sites you use. Net neutrality has caused much debate, and with FCC chairman Ajit Pai potentially scrapping the current system this week, we look at what this could mean for the internet.

But first, with a seemingly beneficial system, why the debate? Ever since the FCC granted the Title II Net Neutrality Rules in February 2015, ensuring that, ‘Americans reap the economic, social and civic benefits of an Open Internet’ with ‘fast, fair and open’ broadband networks, there has been backlash from companies such as AT&T, Verizon and other communication providers claiming that competition is key in this sector and there would be difficulty in recouping investments made if net neutrality continued, potentially reducing future improvements to networks. Though net neutrality was upheld in June 2016, pleasing millions of Americans who voiced their support, Trump and Ajit Pai currently oppose it, taking the providers’ side. Through their combined standing they could remove net neutrality from the internet.

What could this mean for the internet? Providers could place the internet into fast and slow lanes, slowing down competitors’ content, and block access to viewpoints they disagreed with. ISPs could instate a fee system, where companies pay for preferential treatment ensuring their websites work faster and they appear higher in related search results. Also, ISPs may charge their customers on a usage basis or block services such as Google Maps and charge for their own versions. This clearly limits the open network.

"The FCC have a choice to make. Keeping net neutrality is a commitment towards offering today's entrepreneurs the same opportunities the founders of Google or Paypal had, ensuring everyone can have a voice online, and guaranteeing that poorer or rural communities can enjoy the same quality of content as wealthy urban dwellers. Scrapping net neutrality rules would give big cable companies a green light to carve up the internet and pick winners and losers online based on who has the deepest pockets." Craig Fagan, Policy Director at the World Wide Web Foundation

Net neutrality encourages a level playing field for companies, gives freedom of content choice and ensures equal access so that those in lower socio-economic status don’t miss out because of imposed fees. Scrapping it could not only limit these benefits, but also prevent new companies from getting their voices heard, as well as potentially stopping freedom of speech. Though we cannot be certain of the extent of Ajit Pai’s plans, we can only hope it benefits as many people as possible.  

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