America has been up in arms about a vote to repeal Net Neutrality - coming up on December 14th. But should the UK be worried about it? Should we care?
You may have also seen many people and your favourite websites protest the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) intentions to scrap this Obama-era legislation too.
But in our homes of old Blighty, it’s easy to be puzzled. This is an international story, but it only affects the US… Why are we hearing about it? Could the loss of Net Neutrality for one country spread across the planet?
Well, let’s take it from the top.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality maintains an open standard of internet for everyone over in America. It stops internet service providers (ISPs) from interfering with what you can/cannot see online.
What does this mean? ISPs can sell internet packages to customers with different speeds overall, but they can’t manipulate speeds for certain websites.
This stops the companies from attempting to extract more cash from you through somewhat sketchy means - like charging users for access to particular websites or deliberately slowing down streaming services that may compete with their own product.
For context, America’s laws are certainly stronger than some countries out there… New Zealand doesn’t have anything like Net Neutrality in place and you can see some of this preferential treatment in place, as mobile network providers allow users to pay extra to exempt the likes of Facebook and Snapchat from their monthly data limit (but don’t allow it for other social networks).
And now (plus over the past couple years), FCC chairman Ajit Pat has been trying hard to get these rules reversed - claiming the federal government should “stop micromanaging the internet.”
What does the UK have?
Luckily for us in the UK, internet access is a far more competitive market. Across many states in America, there is only one provider available - meaning if Net Neutrality is repealed, many customers will be forced to pay more.
In Britain, we don’t have that problem as pointed out by one British politician. Multiple ISPs cover the nation, so competition is based more on speeds and various content packages owned by the companies themselves.
Net neutrality laws are hard-written into EU law too, meaning the UK already follows these rules…for now.
But wait… What about Brexit?
While the truth is Brexit could lead us down a road of scrapping Net Neutrality, I believe it won’t be likely.
The government has continually talked about their intentions to transfer EU rules over to UK law. All the major ISPs have already signed up to a voluntary Open Internet Code - prohibiting them from blocking services or damaging those of competitors.
But the possibility is there for Parliament to amend these EU rules before they are passed as UK law. That could lead to complications, and if the FCC are successful in rolling back Net Neutrality rules in America, ISPs across the globe and here may see just how much their companies could benefit from these removed rules - damaging consumer interests in favour of profit without any real way to stop it.
So, should we care?
In short, yes and no. The UK’s ISP market is a very different beast to what exists in USA, and they themselves have shown their keenness to keep the consumer as their priority.
But for the sake of ensuring the world is not negatively impacted by the removal of Net Neutrality rules (we are all global citizens after all), you’re well within your own right to be worried.
Now, unless the politicians over there get ballsy and ignore the wishes of every American citizen by voting to repeal the legislation, I’m betting they are kept in place.
However, I did predict we’d stay in the EU and Hillary would win, so I have been wrong before…
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I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.