What is Net Neutrality?
Basically, Net Neutrality is the principle foundational rule of the Internet that means all web services are treated equally. This means that there cannot be content that is placed in a slow lane, thereby reducing the amount of people accessing it, or blocking the content entirely. Without Net Neutrality, an Internet provider can charge websites and users special fees to avoid slowdowns. In other words, an Internet provider could make accessing a particular website extremely slow if the site’s owner doesn’t pay the fees. The only ones that this benefits are the Internet providers themselves, as they can collect money from Internet users and website owners.
The reason that Net Neutrality is once again in the news, is that Ajit Pai, Donald Trump’s Chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and previous lawyer for Verizon, has announced his plan to gut Net Neutrality rules with a vote on December 14th, 2017.
Why Should You Care?
Net Neutrality is not just an American issue. The vote is happening in the USA, but if it passes, it will have global effects. Many of your favourite online services could be slowed way down, or blocked entirely. Many web services are based in the USA, and if they can’t afford or don’t pay the new fees, then they can fade away.
Canadian or other international based web services could be forced to pay the fees if they want to reach American users, or be slowed way down if tried to be accessed in the USA. There is also a lot of Canadian Internet traffic that goes through the USA, and it is unclear how exactly that would be affected, but it almost certainly would be.
If Net Neutrality dies in the USA, there is also the possibility of Canadian big telecom companies to push for the same thing: a hyper-regulated Internet where only money makes things thrive. Since Net Neutrality was won in Canada in 2009, the big 4 providers have consistently tried to undermine it. There is currently a campaign from Open Media calling for an open and free Internet, that has resulted in the CRTC holding a consultation that will shape the rules that govern the future of the Internet in Canada. Add your name here to show support for this message.
What Can You Do?
Open Media have set up a campaign to tell Republican majority Congressional leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to stop the FCC’s plan to kill Net Neutrality: Add your name to The World For the Web.
Currently, the Internet is vast, inexpensive, and unrestricted. The speed of which a page or video loads is not dependent on how much they paid the Internet providers. However if Net Neutrality dies, the Internet will become a much more restricted and costly place. Free expression and innovation online will be gone, and the big telecom companies will have full reign over what we can and can’t see online.
You can also call on our Canadian government to make Net Neutrality rules a prerequisite in trade negotiations. This issue is too important and far-impacting to be ignored.