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Today, Wednesday 12th July, will see a ‘day of action’ across the Internet as several major US companies join a co-ordinated protest against proposed changes to US net neutrality laws.

To recap, net neutrality is the principle of treating all traffic over the Internet equally- so no service is favoured against another because they have paid the ISP delivering the service more money, for example. Under Obama’s Government the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) implemented legislation that protects that principle and forces providers to treat all traffic fairly. However, the new Trump led Government is looking to overturn that and give providers more power to decide how traffic is treated and potentially generate additional revenues through paid prioritisation, potentially blocking or slowing down access to other sites.

Argument for net neutrality

The argument for net neutrality is relatively obvious – to maintain and protect a level playing field, ensuring fairness for all across the Internet and ensure smaller companies (who are unlikely to be able to pay ISPs additional money to prioritise their traffic) are not negatively affected by more dominant market players and therefore protect innovation and economic growth. Net neutrality also stops the potential for censorship e.g. ISPs favouring their own content or blocking access to content.

Argument against net neutrality

This is where it gets interesting. The main opposing argument appears to be that the regulation is an undue restriction on business, stifles investment in new technology and that the current laws are outdated. It’s not so much a disagreement with the principle of net neutrality, more a disagreement with the need for it to be regulated and enforced through legislation, with many critics arguing the industry can self-regulate more than adequately.

Why now?

When Trump, a vocal critic of the current regulations, came into power he appointed a former net neutrality opponent as chair of the FCC and he is now claiming that ISPs are not investing in critical infrastructure such as connections to low income households and rural locations because the net neutrality laws restrict their ability to generate additional revenues. Therefore, back in May, the FCC voted to end the current regulations and are now in the process of a public consultation (ending in August) which is why the ‘day of action’ is planned to gain support.

12th July ‘Day of Action’

Net neutrality slow down

Today, over 170 organisations including Amazon will join together to ‘slow down’ their services in protest of the changes in an attempt to show what could happen if the laws are changed and ISPs are given the ability to affect the level of service provided. Many will display messages such as the one shown below to try and gather further support for the cause:

On the flip side – ISPs are also planning to make their case via social media today. Comcast, the largest US provider has already stated: “We have and will continue to support strong, legally enforceable net neutrality protections that ensure a free and Open Internet for our customers, with consumers able to access any and all the lawful content they want at any time”.

The company appears to support the principle of net neutrality but argues that the current laws are outdated and they are concerned that future presidential changes could see further legislative changes and upheaval.  

The biggest problem both sides of the argument have is trying to explain the concept of net neutrality and its potential impact to customers in layman’s terms. This has led to the creation of some interesting and in some cases highly amusing memes and infographics such as this particular analogy using pizza:

Net neutrality pizza

What’s this got to do with us?

Immediately, not a lot. European law protects the principle of net neutrality across Europe, including the UK but as always major changes in America have a habit of affecting things across the pond, so whilst we are not directly affected (yet) it’s always worth monitoring the situation.

At Entanet, we remain clear supporters of net neutrality and believe a free and equal Internet should be protected.

Have your say!

What do you think? Should ISPs be left to self-regulate or is regulation required to ensure protection? Do the current laws need updating and would legal changes really encourage investment? Leave us a comment below.

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