In a move that will effectively alter how we use the internet, the Federal Communications Commission has voted 3-2 to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules. It will give internet service providers the ability to speed up or slow down certain websites and apps. It also gives providers power to slow down or shut down some sites.
Trump-appointed FCC chairman Ajit Pai led the move, which will see the 2015 rules that enabled all internet services and sites to be treated equally. The Washington Post is calling the result a “major setback for tech companies, consumer groups and Democrats who lobbied heavily against the decision.”
So, what does it mean for Canadians? Let’s get into the basics.
What is net neutrality?
Net neutrality is the reason we all love the internet, every website and their content is open and available to everyone with an internet connection. The FCC (the American equivalent to our CRTC) will repeal Obama-era open internet rules to allow telecom companies, the internet service providers, to block certain content. This will allow them to throttle download speeds, block specific websites, or even develop exclusive rights to certain platforms/content, like cable television providers currently do. Totally hypothetically… Verizon can make a deal with Bing which in-turn could choke speeds/data to Google and YouTube, or even worse, blocking them entirely.
How does this affect Canadians?
The FCC and CRTC are both made up by commissioners appointed by the current government but the FCC tends to lean left or right based on the current administration. The CRTC operates apolitically and historically makes decisions based on public input versus party priorities – ever Canadian of them. Outside of a lack of political pressure on our communications commission, Canada’s Telecommunications Act states that internet service providers (considered utilities companies) cannot determine which content is accessible on their networks. These rules essentially promote net neutrality in Canada.
Image via Kiwihug/Unsplash