Net neutrality is the principle that ISP’s and governments should treat all data on the internet as equal. This means that there should be no discrimination or charging of separate rates to different users, content, sites, platforms or applications.
But why should you care? CBR has compiled a list to tell you why.
1. If you want higher quality then you’ll have to pay
The ISP’s want you to know that it is more costly to send lots of data for streaming a high quality movie, than if you streamed it at a lower resolution. So, they say you should pay more for this with a tiered internet system. This would mean that those content providers who are prepared to pay, can go into an internet "fast lane," so customers can have faster load times of those sites and services.
The ISP’s don’t believe that they should be solely carrying the cost of carrying bandwidth-hungry services and are eager to see heavy content customers pay more.
2. Net neutrality will aid competition
Prior to early open net policies, AT&T ruled the ISP market and prohibited anyone from attaching non-AT&T equipment to its network. The FCC changed this and competition rose in the form of AOL and others, thus helping to increase the accessibility to the internet for the general public.
A reduction in costs facilitated by the rise of competition also forced companies to continue to improve – if one company dominates the market and has no competition then it has no incentive to improve its product and so prices are also likely to rise.
3. Net neutrality will preserve the internet as an open platform
Sir Tim Berners-Leigh the creator of the internet, envisioned a platform for free and open expression – net neutrality would help to assure this. Currently, Tom Wheeler appears to be on the side of the net neutrality law, the banning of paid prioritisation, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services.
You shouldn’t be lead to believe that this is just an American issue. To prove this point, following an agreement to pay a fee to Comcast and Verizon, Netflix put up the price for its monthly streaming service in both America and Europe. If companies are going to have to pay a higher price in America, you can expect them to counter that by also upping fees for customers.
4. Throttling of data on mobile devices could be a thing of the past
One element of the plan is to put wireless networks together with cable based broadband for the first time, puttin an end to data throttling. So if you are using a lot of data on your mobile device, then no longer will you have to fear a reduction of your service.
TracFone was recently told to pay back $40 million to customers after throttling their usage on "unlimited" data plans. The company had been throttling speeds for its customers when they had gone over certain amounts of data usage in a month. This is either a sign of things to come or that ISP’s will have to be more open and clear with the wording of data usage.
5. Europe and the US on net neutrality
The European Parliament voted to restrict ISP’s from charging services for faster network access, it was also ruled that mobile and network providers should not be able to block competing services.
In Slovenia and the Netherlands there has already been an enshrining of neutrality in their national laws, while in Brazil President Dilma Rousseff signed into law establishing that telecom companies cannot change prices based upon the amount of content that is accessed by users, and ISPs cannot interfere with how consumers use the internet.
As America continues to drag its heels on a net neutrality law, Europe has raced ahead. If America were to pass in favour of ISP’s it could create an interesting conflict.
6. Network performance could be degraded and content could be blocked
ISP’s have disregarded the claims that if they don’t get what they want, then they may purposefully degrade performance and block content. However, some pretty big names have been making these claims, so there could be a basis to them, or they could be ramping up tensions in a propoganda battle.
Google, Amazon, Twitter and Facebook have all voiced concerns in a letter to the FCC, calling on the organisation to protect net neutrality. The letter claims that the internet needs to be protected: "against blocking, discrimination and paid prioritisation."
7. Watching habits may have to change
If net neutrality is upheld then the consumer may suffer, however, if it isn’t, then the consumer may still suffer. So as a consumer you should be watching closely. Potentially, if net neutrality is upheld then ISP’s may pass on the cost of delivering high bandwidth services to the consumer with higher monthly fees.
Alternatively, users may get usage reflective bills, with video-on-demand services likely to suffer from higher bills. However, if ISP’s win, then charging fees for prioritised access to content is likely to be implemented. This could result in discrimatory internet access, with paying websites loading quickly and non paying loading slowly.