If you were scrolling through your Twitter feed yesterday you may have seen posts and hashtags trending relating to ‘Net Neutrality’. That’s because the 12th July 2017 was being dubbed the ‘day of action’ by tech firms such as Facebook, Amazon, Twitter who are protesting against Donald Trump’s administration plans to roll back rules on net neutrality, which were originally put in place by Obama in 2015.
Net neutrality is the broad principle that internet service providers (ISP’s) treat everyone’s data equally, this could range from an email from your partner, a bank transfer or a streamed episode of last night’s Love Island.
Currently, ISP’s have no advantage over each other to allow them to decide which data is sent more quickly and are prohibited from selling access to a speedier internet to certain users. However, that is now under threat, partly due to US cable companies putting pressure on Congress to overturn these rules.
If the ruling is overturned ISP’s would have the power to slow certain sites down and most importantly the ability to charge millions of dollars to users who would be willing to pay to access ‘fast lanes’ on certain sites.
Changes to the rule are being proposed by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with the public having until mid-August to send comments – 6.3 million have been filed so far, with 550,000 filed since yesterday in response to the ‘day of action’.
Large tech firms are understandably unhappy about giving ISP’s carte blanche over internet access and this was demonstrated with full effect yesterday with many popular websites featuring pop-ups, banners and ads urging the public to oppose the rules.
Twitter blogged, “Net Neutrality is foundational to competitive, free enterprise, entrepreneurial market entry – and reaching global customers. You don’t have to be a big shot to compete. Anyone with a great idea, a unique perspective to share, and a compelling vision can get in the game.”
The impact on the UK
Net neutrality is currently enforced in the UK by The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications and is safeguarded under EU legislation – for the time being at least.
With it coming under threat in the US and Britain’s imminent exit from the EU it will be interesting to see the outcome from yesterday’s protest and how it shapes internet use in the future.