Here’s another topic coming straight from the U.S. that is looking likely to be a major talking point for quite some time, and perhaps divide opinions throughout the world. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has killed the 2015 net neutrality laws by voting as such on December 14 2017 with three votes in favor.
Ajit Pai, FCC’s chairman, had already stated that “under [his] proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet,” and that “the FCC would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices”.
But it is exactly this policy of being transparent that’s in question here, as millions fear of how the market will change. Now ISPs are allowed to charge extra for particular services, while limiting the speed of others, which will make it hard for new competition to arise. But there’s still hope for those standing against this, since the regulation could still be decided on in court.
Content Prioritization, Traffic Control and a Whole Lot of Money
Previous regulations that were approved in the Obama administration blocked, for instance, the power that ISPs had to throttle or block specific connections in favor of those paying for higher costing packages. In other words, net neutrality ensured that access to the internet was equal for everyone, regardless of how people choose to use it.
This is no longer true, however, and now ISPs are completely free to do whatever they want so long as they publicly state as such beforehand. Likewise, they will now be regulated by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) instead, an agency that is “committed to ensuring that ISPs live up to the promises they make to consumers,” said the acting chairman in a statement. The FTC will act on anything that the ISPs disclose in regards to upcoming blocks, throttles or paid prioritization, and ultimately evaluate whether such practice is anti-competitive or not.
While changes won’t be felt overnight, net neutrality supporters are already heavily criticizing what they consider a setback and something that will only benefit consumers who pay the most.
These new measures – or lack thereof – could also lead to the repeat of previous controversial cases, such as when Comcast was secretly throttling a P2P upload app using forged packets or when AT&T limited FaceTime access to try and force customers to pay for the new shared data plans.
The only difference now is that it will be completely legal to do this, and – although the FCC considers this unlikely – ISPs can always negotiate with services like Netflix to prioritize their service on the internet plans. Others won’t even need to go that far since they already own some content companies. NBCUniversal belongs to Comcast, for instance, so all the ISP needs to do now is throttle the competition to direct users towards NBC.
To put all this into practical terms, the likelihood is that ISPs will create different plans for different purposes. For instance, if you want more data for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like, you would opt for a social media package, whereas if you would rather benefit from faster streaming through Netflix, Hulu and other such services then the relevant plan would obviously be the preferred choice. Naturally it’s possible to have both, and ultimately this will increase the final bill.
But this could also work the other way around, so that those who don’t care about streaming content or vice versa can opt for a plan that empowers their preferred service and save some extra dollars at the end of the month.
Another concern that net neutrality supporters highlighted is how hard it would be for new services to arise. A new streaming, messaging or whatever service it might be will likely have a hard time entering the market since it would struggle to make beneficial deals with ISPs to allow their content to be available at speeds matching existing companies that have already brokered such deals. This could mean that the market will be ultimately dominated by multi-million-dollar businesses.
Keeping the Neutrality
Last month, a senior FCC said on call to CNN that “whenever [they] do anything big and major, people go to court”, so this could be the last hope for many net neutrality supporters to try and put everything back the way it was.
Regardless of what will happen in the upcoming months, if there’s an industry that will be likely to prosper in the future it is VPNs. In fact, this is one of the best ways to keep onto net neutrality since you’ll be hidden from your ISP’s eyes the moment it is switched on.
It is true that this won’t stop them from offering different plans for different needs, but it will be possible to opt for the most basic package, for instance, and watch unthrottled Netflix, make cheaper VoIP calls, unblock social media, or whatever it is you did before the end of net neutrality.
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