The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has made a decision that may drastically change the internet as we know it.
On Thursday, the FCC voted 3-2 in favour of removing the net neutrality rules put in place in by the Barak Obama Administration in 2015.
The FCC voted along party lines with the Democrats for and the Republicans against.
Net neutrality is now dead. But what was it and why should we care?
The internet has traditionally been a place where you can find anything and everything.
Net neutrality is the concept that underpins this idea. With net neutrality, all content is treated equally and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can’t privilege or throttle data flows to certain websites.
At least for now, net neutrality is dead in the U.S. and it’s not a good thing. This means that American ISPs can now control what people see and do on the internet.
ISPs such as Comcast and Verizon can block or throttle sites, or even grant “fast lanes” to sites that are willing to pay extra. Boo.
The U.S. cable companies lobbied the FCC to kill net neutrality, because with net neutrality dead they get more power and the ability to increase their revenue.
The killing of net neutrality was led by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer who has quickly become one of the most hated men on the internet. Making cringey videos like this certainly hasn’t helped his cause:
U.S. President Donald Trump’s tiny fingerprints (remember his freakishly small hands?) are all over the death of net neutrality. Trump appointed Pai to kill the Obama-era rules because he sees it as “overregulation” and is on a mission to undo everything Obama achieved while in office.
I wonder if the first order of business will be to discriminate against “fake news” sites like CNN and The “Failin” New York Times?
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) November 22, 2017
So what will the death of net neutrality mean for Australians?
Finder.com’s Fred Schebesta told News Corp that everyday Aussies are unlikely to be affected directly but that Aussie businesses could be hurt by the changes.
“Many Australian businesses that are operating internationally rely on hosting and other services from US providers. If the US internet service provider market shrinks because of the rule change, that’s going to have a flow-on effect on those Australian businesses,” he said.
Average Australians could also face price increases. For example, if U.S. cable companies decide to make streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix pay more for “fast lanes”, these extra costs could trickle down to Aussie consumers.
Schebesta added that while Australia doesn’t have net neutrality laws, we have strong consumer laws in place that stop ISPs from trying any funny business.
“I don’t think we need net neutrality rules in Australia right now, but I do think we will need them if the US dismantles its regulations and allows ISPs to charge a premium to access the internet,” he said.
Meanwhile, the battle in the U.S. is not over yet.
Major tech companies such as Google and Apple support net neutrality and there is a large and growing grassroots movement to bring the rules back. This movement is already causing ripples politically and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says he’ll sue the FCC in an attempt to block the demise of a free and open internet.
We're hearing that tons of Congressional voice-mail boxes are COMPLETELY FULL thanks to the overwhelming flood of phone calls for #NetNeutrality. Keep sounding the alarm. Keep calling! We need to keep the outrage going until the December 14 vote. https://t.co/xSJHbLq2Wn
— Fight for the Future (@fightfortheftr) November 22, 2017