The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) in the U.S announced its plans
to ensure an open and free internet by slashing net neutrality rules that were
established in 2015.
This action would favor giant telecom and cable companies in the U.S by
granting them the ability to throttle or block websites and instead dedicate
more resources to their own services if they so wish. This is according to the
executive director of the Open media, Laura Tribe.
As things stand, it looks like the FCC is going to repeal almost all the
provisions that regulate the internet and in the process relieve itself of its
oversight authority over broadband providers like Verizon, Comcast and even
AT&T: – an action that many term as a danger to the internet.
For many years there has been a tug of war between broadband providers and
the FCC with the broadband providers using lawsuits and agency filings to fight
the FCC’s oversight authority in a bid to prevent them from abusing net
neutrality laws and regulations. However, never in their wildest dreams did
these giant corporations ever imagine that FCC would voluntarily choose to
abolish all net neutrality protections and allow these Internet Service
Providers to work as they please.
Assuming all the vital tenets of net neutrality are dismantled the only
power that the oversight commission will have over these companies is a
mandatory weak disclosure requirement. For example, if Comcast wants to
establish paid fast lanes or block content charge sites then all it has to do
is simply inform its subscribers of its intentions in the data contracts.
Once the provisions are repealed, the FCC’s former regulatory powers will be
“transferred” and vested onto the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), a body that
has no ability to formulate internet rules and has no prior experience
enforcing open internet regulations. To make matters worse, with such a high
drain of statutory power not only will the FTC be powerless from preventing the
companies from adopting sneaky data strategies to mess with the internet but
they will also largely be powerless against greedy Internet Service Providers
who are out to increase profits through oppression and favoritism.
Net Neutrality – In a Nutshell
Net neutrality is an internet principle that was established to preserve the
right to free speech via digital platforms. Basically, net neutrality prevents
data providers and ISPs from discriminating against any content or applications
that passes through their networks. Similarly, it prevents these companies from
regulating the type of content that is viewed or posted online.
Should net neutrality laws be abolished phone and cable companies would
create slow and fast lanes for data. Such companies would slow down content
that they disagree with, block it or charge exorbitant fees to organizations
and companies to allow their data to traverse the fast lanes. Inevitably, this
would hamper free speech and democracy.
The Effects of Abolishing Net Neutrality
The reversal of rules preventing U.SInternet service providers from biased handling of web traffic is expected toimpact Canada in a variety of ways.
1. Rising cost of data services among Canada’s telecommunication
It’s likely that Canada’s topInternet Service Providers will be required to dig deeper into their pockets toconnect their subscribers to other users in the U.S or risk being slowed down. Thisis because a lot of Canada’s web traffic goes through U.S data centers. Theseadded costs will eventually trickle down to the average user and would translateto expensive broadband package plans.
2. Expensive online services
Canadians may also be dealt withhigher subscription fees in order to access online services such as Netflix. Itis also anticipated that some of the services that originate from the U.S couldalso fade away if they cannot afford to pay the set fees.
Thanks to the CRTC’s InternetTraffic Management Practices regulatory policies established in 2009, Canada’snet neutrality protections are much stronger than the U.S in preventing webtraffic discrimination.
Canadians don’t have to sit on thesidelines helplessly watching as the net neutrality debacle unfolds. They can pushfor net neutrality rules in Canada to become statutes. They can also supportU.S allies in shaming regulators and congress by donating towards the settingup of massive billboards stating how congress has abandoned American internet users. It is also advisable for Canadians to neutralize thepower of large telecom companies and distributing this power to other playersin the industry.