For years the FCC governed Net Neutrality regulations that protected businesses and consumers from having Internet speeds and website access controlled by their ISPs. With those regulations came the expectation that we, as consumers, can automatically and freely communicate online over open networks.
Flash-forward to December 14, 2017, Net Neutrality was repealed and things are changing – or are they?
The Internet post-repeal: is it really the Internet?
Last year, Net Neutrality made big news, especially in the months leading up to the FCC’s decision to keep or repeal it. There were protests online and in person, millions of advocates against it, some for it, and still many of us remained under informed about the potentiality.
What the repeal of Net Neutrality means:
Now, after the repeal, ISPs can decide which websites garner more exposure on their networks. This is similar to how the cereal aisle at the grocery store works. Large companies with deep pockets pay for eye level shelf space regardless of whether their cereal is healthier, better, or more popular. Now post-repeal, ISPs have similar power to force companies to pay for premium placement (aka shelf space) and can also give disadvantaged placement to those who refuse to pay – or really for any reason they see fit. For those of us building businesses online that notion is unnerving.
Freedom of speech:
When ISPs are free to control their users’ connectivity to political and civil rights organizations, it impacts consumers’ accessibility to unfiltered information. With the repeal of Net Neutrality, ISPs have the legal right to limit online access to information on basic human rights, racial and gender issues, marriage equality, and political or religious affiliations. This notion is also unnerving.
The open Internet fosters growth:
Net Neutrality regulations allowed small businesses to thrive online because they had equal access to the same audience no matter their size. It’s a big part of the reason technology has evolved so quickly – all those start ups can take ideas to market, open opportunities, and put their messaging in front of the right people without being throttled or negated by an ISP. Without Net Neutrality, ISPs can legally play favorites and small companies can be intentionally disadvantaged if their point of view contradicts the view of the ISP that controls user access.
Companies are fighting for the restoration of Net Neutrality:
Some of the biggest businesses on the Internet are fighting for the reversal of Net Neutrality. Companies like Netflix, Google, Twitter, KickStarter, Etsy, Reddit, OKcupid, the ACLU, Vimeo, GitHub and many, many more. Conversely the major ISPs; AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Spectrum are actively fighting against the reversal in favor of their control over potentially forcing certain companies to take the “slow lane,” (aka the shelf space conundrum mentioned above).
What’s the big deal? We haven’t noticed a difference since the repeal:
It’s been several weeks since the repeal of Net Neutrality and for the most part, the public isn’t complaining so all is good, right? For now yes, but the fight against the repeal continues because those against it fear the ramification will come slowly and sneakily.
This might look like Netflix buffering more and more resulting in an impaired user experience while those same users simultaneously begin receiving offers to sign up for the ISP’s movie package. Or for businesses using VoIP solutions, calls might begin dropping if you’re not using an ISP preferred provider.
Large carriers claim this won’t happen and maybe it won’t but the fact remains that ISPs now have the power to do those sorts of things without fear of breaking laws. And when changes happen slowly, it’s easier to dismiss signs such as increased buffering on movie binge nights as something wrong with the website – not the ISP asserting their power.
States are responding:
Recently, California passed a bill supporting Net Neutrality in their state and if passed it will prohibit ISPs from blocking and throttling content as well as prohibiting them from using deceptive or misleading marketing initiatives to misrepresent their treatment of Internet traffic. But that’s just in the state of California. Alaska has proposed a similar regulation and so far, Montana and New York have also filed actions in favor of Net Neutrality but theirs are only in connection with the Internet services provided to state agencies, not the businesses and consumers residing in those states. More states, including Washington are taking actions too by introducing bills to revive Net Neutrality protections at the state level; all while organizations continue to fight the repeal at the federal level.
The Accel Net stance on Net Neutrality:
It’s likely that conversations will heat up as time goes on, especially if predictions that ISPs will adopt slow and stealthy approaches to throttling and controlling content or pay-to-play pricing become reality. As a business class broadband provider that owns, operates, and controls our own network, we weighed out the scenarios and understand we have the freedom and power to alter the Internet experience of our customers.
Current Accel Net customers and those thinking about using our network for business class Internet access, we want you to know that Accel Net fully supports the tenants of Net Neutrality. This means that every Accel Net customer will continue to have 99.999% uptime guarantees AND uninhibited access to the Internet.