“So the F-C-C won’t let me be or let me be me”. So said the rapper Eminem sixteen years ago in the hit song “Without me”. Well now people across the USA and the world can finally understand the pale wordsmith’s frustrations. It’s clear that the FCC won’t let any of us be. The end of net neutrality has a date: June 11, 2018.
Recapping the Net Neutrality Debate
In case you’ve somehow missed the endless stream of net neutrality articles over the last few months, let’s quickly outline the basic issue.
“Net neutrality” simply means that the network doesn’t care what information packets are being sent, it treats them all the same. So your Netflix data packets will get the same priority and speed as someone else’s emails or normal web browsing.
A network that isn’t neutral can provide preferential treatment to certain types of data. Under US President Obama new net neutrality laws were instituted which made it illegal to do this. These laws are set to be repealed on June 11, 2018.
Why is This Happening?
It’s a long story, but in essence, net neutrality is seen as being anti-business and a form of market interference by telecoms companies in the US. The pressure in government from these powerful players have finally turned the tide.
What This Means for Consumers
As someone who pays for their internet services, you could be heavily affected by a lack of net neutrality regulations. The main form in which this repeal could be reflected is an unbundling of internet services. Imagine if you had to pay separate fees for web browsing, video streaming, social media and all the other service we use via the internet every day.
ISPs would also be within their rights to block access to competitor’s services or charge a fee to use certain companies’ products via their network. There some arguments for the benefits of dropping net neutrality. Generally, however, it will give ISPs sweeping powers to regulate the medium innovative startups and popular services use to reach their customers.
Even users of VPN aren’t safe. The net neutrality repeal could hurt VPN users.
What This Means for Businesses
If you’re an internet startup or established internet business, things might be looking grim. Companies like Netflix might now have to pay every ISP a fee in order to have access to their network or enough speed to make your service work.
This means a raised cost for Netflix and other similar companies, which will have to pass that cost on to the consumer. Companies that are ad-supported, as, with social media, they’ll either have to switch to paid models or seriously step up the exploitation of users for revenue.
If you’re the next Uber or Airbnb you might simply not have the money to buy your spot on every major ISP. So tough to the guys who didn’t flourish under a neutral net.
What Does it Mean for People Outside the USA?
It’s easy to think that this is just another problem that’s only going to affect Americans. Unfortunately, much of the world’s internet traffic flows through the USA. Which means either deal will have to be made or lengthy and costly detours around the US. It’s unlikely that anyone will be completely free of the repeal’s effects.
What Happens Now?
It doesn’t seem likely that something will happen to avert the new legal regime come June 11. But the fight is far from over. Several states have mulled making their own net neutrality laws, but the FCC has carefully crafted regulations to prevent that from happening.
The only way to reverse the repeal it seems is to vote against it in the US Senate. The those in support of reversing the repeal are about equal to those who want it to go ahead. The margin is so close that net neutrality supporters in Senate only have one more vote than the opposition.
Even of the Senate votes in favor of reversing the repeal, there’s still quite a long way to go.
Whether the apocalypse actually comes on June 11 remains to be seen. After all, we’re simply returning to the way the internet was in the US in 2015. One way or another, we’ll all find out in about a month!