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WWWTF IS NET NEUTRALITY?
Today we’re going to do what we do best and make a long story short.
Net neutrality is the idea that internet service providers (ISPs) — the guys who supply internet access, like Rogers and Bell — should treat all content flowing through their cables and cell towers equally, without favouring or blocking specific sites.
This means internet providers can’t speed up access to certain websites based on whether or not the site pays for a faster connection. And likewise, ISPs can’t slow down or block sites that don’t pay. Without net neutrality, ISPs could dictate what consumers see and how quickly they see it.
Here’s a great video that explains it.
Net neutrality has become part of an ongoing political debate that most people know absolutely nothing about (but definitely should).
But that’s why you have us.
THE .COM CONTENDERS
There are two major teams on either side of the net neutrality debate.
The forces of Silicon Valley are in full support of net neutrality (duh, they don’t want to pay for consumers to have a faster connection to their sites).
On the other side are the ISPs, who are — of course — against the idea all together (because, well, greed).
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Most consumers are pro-net neutrality since without it some sites and services would inherently slow down. At that point, you’d start to see this all-too-familiar, anxiety-invoking, spinny circle of doom. (Is your blood pressure rising yet?)
This actually happened in the U.S. in 2014 (and they survived, somehow).
Before net neutrality was regulated, Comcast customers began to notice Netflix streaming services slowing down (oh, the HORROR). Only when Netflix started paying Comcast did the services speed up again.
Then President Barack Obama stepped in and urged the FCC to instate rules that would preserve net neutrality. And that’s what happened, until Trump came into office and caused a ruckus. (More on that later.)
Possibly more irritating than the spinny circle of doom: ending net neutrality could also mean more moola from consumers. ISPs would likely begin to charge users to unlock premium access and websites that offer subscriptions would hike up their prices to offset the new ISP fees.
FAIR AND SQUARE
On the other hand, those against net neutrality say that companies like YouTube and Netflix are consuming huge amounts of bandwidth, putting strain on the network.
The central argument is that content producers should pay their fair share for how much space they hog on the web.
And that sort of makes sense, right?
ISPs also believe that removing net neutrality would provide necessary revenue and promote competition, which would then generate better and more innovative internet services.
SO, WHO DECIDES?
The Federal Communications Commission (the FCC) in the U.S., and the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (the CRTC) in Canada.
The difference between the two is that one is an independent body (the FCC) and the other is a government agency (CRTC).
NET NEUTRALITY IN THE GREAT WHITE NORTH
Luckily, net neutrality is a far less contentious topic in Canada than it is in the U.S. of A.
Here, the CRTC supports net neutrality, and laws surrounding this issue were enshrined before the debate even began. In fact, Canada is known for having the strictest net neutrality laws in the world. The EU is also known for its stringent regulations.
WHY EVERYONE’S SO MAD ABOUT IT
The future of net neutrality is up for debate south of the border.
It’s a hot-button topic that’s been on the agenda for years now, and like most debates in the U.S., the net neutrality issue is partisan. There is a clear divide between Democrats and Republicans on what net neutrality rules should look like. For the most part, Dems are in favour of net neutrality while Republicans are opposed.
Not long after his inauguration, President Trump appointed a new Republican head of the FCC, who swiftly repealed the net neutrality regulations imposed by Obama.
The decision to dismantle the rules proved extremely unpopular among the public, on both sides of the political divide.
SAVE THE INTERNET ACT
Disgruntled Democrats revived the fight to save net neutrality this past week, with the the Save the Internet Act — a proposal to reinstate the Obama-era regulations that were rolled back in 2017.
Basically, if all works out, net neutrality would be a thing again in the United States.
The House of Representatives approved the measure on Wednesday, but there’s still a long way to go. The bill now needs to be passed by the Senate, followed by a final stamp of approval by President Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that the net neutrality measure would be “dead on arrival” after making it to the Senate. (Thanks for your consideration, Mitch.) The White House also put out a statement, which promised to veto the bill should it somehow get approval from the Senate.
Only time will tell how this cyberspace controversy will ultimately unfold. And we’ll keep you posted every step of the way.