The U.S. plans to end net neutrality

By CBA/ABC National November 23, 201723 November 2017

The U.S. plans to end net neutrality

The debate over net neutrality is raging again in the U.S. The Federal Communications Commission has released its final proposal to end net neutrality. It will repeal a 2015 Obama-administration era prohibition aimed at internet service providers against blocking or slowing down consumer access to web content. The move would also limit FCC jurisdiction over broadband internet access services.

What’s the problem?

As things stand, internet service providers can’t charge more for access to certain web sites (such as those that, incidentally, it doesn’t own).  Critics (among them Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web want all internet traffic to be treated equally regardless of content, origin or destination. Ending net neutrality, they argue, would usher in a two-tier approach that will ultimately produce unfair competition that favours incumbents and hinder the ability of start-up companies to disrupt. Also, there is a legitimate concern that without net neutrality, users will have to have to pay more for the sites their internet providers decide to charge for. Think of when you cut the cord on your cable channel package. It’s a bit like that.

Who’s for it?

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, appointed by Donald Trump, argues that he is in fact “restoring internet freedom”  and eliminating burdensome government regulation. Others, like Tyler Cowen, who once supported net neutrality, don’t think it’s the end of the world. Established players “won’t want to distort the consumer experience too much, so they can

What about the rest of the world?

Paid prioritization exists elsewhere in the world – in Portugal, New Zealand and even in the U.K. The results have been mixed. The problem in the U.S. is that two giants supply internet access to three-quarters of the population.  Meanwhile in Canada, the CRTC and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are firmly backing the principles of net neutrality. The EU enshrined those principles into EU law in 2016.

Next steps

The Federal Communications Commission will vote on Pai’s proposal on December 14 et has a good chance of getting approved.  Advocacy groups have already warned that they will context any changes before the courts.  The saga over net neutrality – already more than a decade old, is far from over.

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