12.7.17

Net Neutrality is at risk in the United States

Net Neutrality may not be a household term, but it is something that can potentially impact each and every household. Internet freedom in the US is facing impending challenges as leadership within the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) looks to reverse net neutrality rules originally set in February 2015. Those rules placed Internet Service Providers (ISPs) under a governing board to ensure they do not differentiate between content served to Internet users. The newly appointed FCC Chairman and former Associate General Counselor for one of the biggest ISPs in the US – Verizon, Ajit Pai, is now setting out to overturn these rules in an effort to empower ISPs’ authority on Internet broadband distribution. The legislation would enable ISPs to create “slow lanes” and “fast lanes” and influence content delivery overall.

Potential outcomes include placing parts of the Internet behind a paywall, slowing down some sites or even preventing access to certain sites altogether. Many consider net neutrality equivalent to freedom of speech law in the US (the First Amendment), and for the Internet, dismantling net neutrality can have disastrous effects by decreasing access to information and increasing costs for end users. Equal access to the internet is one of the main drivers of innovation and it is the core of what makes the internet such an outstanding environment. The introduction of “slow” and “fast” lanes would make it almost impossible for startups to compete. It could likely lead to an environment where the service that wins is not the best one, but the one with the ability to pay for ISP “fast lanes”. No matter how you try to spin this, this can only impede innovation.

Potentially even more concerning are the problems created by allowing ISPs to influence what information and content customers can consume. This could lead to a situation where instead of being able to get news from all websites, information is limited to just sites that are able to pay the most to ISPs. For democracy to thrive, information must flow freely, and without net neutrality, this core principle is compromised.

What can you do about it? Today, over hundreds of tech companies worldwide are coming together to prevent this unwanted scenario from unfolding. If you are a U.S citizen, you can express your disapproval to the FCC and your elected representatives through the official protest website at Battle For the Net.

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