Cast your minds back to December last year, to the (un)surprising announcement that the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) had decided to ditch net neutrality. In simple terms, the rules that ensure equal access to the internet in the US.
Set out in 2015, it was landmark legislation from the Obama-era. The rules ensured a free and open internet, stopping ISPs from blocking or slowing down access to content, and charging users for faster speeds or higher-quality services.
The vote is expected to take place next week, and a simple majority vote in Congress can stop the FCC’s decision. It’s highly unlikely that it will be repealed though, and with the June 11th cut off date looming, time is running out.
See, the FCC is controlled by a republican majority, who on the most part dislike the current legislation and want ISPs to be allowed to do what they want with internet traffic. The FCC’s current leader thinks that ISPs will have more flexibility under the new rules and will be able to make more money. Great.
This week there’s been a last ditch attempt to save the day. Lots of US companies including Etsy, Reddit, Tumblr and OKCupid have put ‘red alerts’ on their sites asking their visitors to save net neutrality.
Organisers of the ‘Red Alert’ campaign want sites to carry banners or notifications urging lawmakers to vote against the plans to stop net neutrality. Even the father of the internet, Tim Berners-Lee, has said his piece – “I invented the web as an open, permissionless space for everyone”.
Companies like Netflix will suffer the biggest blow if the new rules are passed. Netflix often accounts for 50% of all web video streaming. Companies like telecommunications giants, Comcast, have got tired of hosting Netflix (that bandwidth bill tho). Conveniently Comcast’s feeds have started getting slower, too. Is this what we can expect if the bill passes? Fast-lane offerings only for preferred partners, eh.
The new legislation will also affect domestic users, facing data caps and additional charges should they go over their monthly limits. Users will be in the hands of the tech giants, who’ll control their internet experience.
[ NB: This is an unfolding news story, so keep up-to-date by following news channels]