On December 14th, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on abolishing the Net Neutrality laws set in place by the Obama administration. This move comes from FCC chairman Ajit Pai, who was put into the role by none other than Donald “Ruin Everything” Trump. To give some context, Pai was a former lawyer for Verizon, which is one of the largest telecommunication companies in North America. The FCC is supposed to be the governing body that regulates telecommunication companies…you can see where the conflict of interest comes in here. Ever since stepping into the role, Pai has targeted Net Neutrality laws and has now put forward a vote that can change the way the internet works…for the worse.
Net Neutrality is the concept that internet providers must treat all internet traffic the same, regardless of content. This means that under the current Net Neutrality laws, providers like Verizon cannot block, slow down, or charge extra for any specific content on the internet. These laws were put in place to protect the consumer against price gouging by giant telecommunication companies. An internet provider deciding what content you can or can’t access is as ridiculous as your phone company deciding who you can or can’t call. Pai claims that the FCC has the ability to protect consumers, so Net Neutrality does not need to exist. As you can tell, I am clearly pro Net Neutrality and I believe you should be too, but you might be wondering “how does a communications law in the USA affect Canadians?”…Well, here’s how:
1. U.S websites that you visit may be slowed down or blocked:
With Telecom companies having the autonomy to shape the internet how they see fit, certain websites may be blocked or slowed down. Anti-Trump websites/articles could be subject to extreme slowdowns or blocking, affecting what we can or can’t see about what is happening in the United States. Telecom companies could also decide that only websites that pay a new premium can be accessed un-throttled, where-as Not-for-profit websites like Wikipedia who could not afford a premium will be extremely slowed down.
2. Certain online streaming services could be more expensive:
Netflix is the world’s largest consumer of internet bandwidth with nearly 30% of all internet traffic. This is no secret to Telecom companies who have battled for the ability to cap user’s limits using the service for years. Bandwidth (the lifeblood of internet providers) is a limited resource, and many Telecom companies have tried in the past to limit Netflix’s consumption of it. The only thing protecting the consumer’s ability to binge-watch Breaking Bad on a rainy Sunday afternoon was Net Neutrality. Post-Net Neutrality, Pai’s old friends Verizon and their competitors could force Netflix to pay them big bucks to maintain streaming speeds, and this cost will in-turn be reflected in subscription fees.
3. American content could take precedent over Canadian content:
Due to the close proximity of our two countries, its no surprise that we heavily rely on another other for consumerism. Many online companies, blogs, you tube artists rely on the viewership/consumer-ship of the +300 million Americans to the South. Without Net Neutrality, Americans could prioritize American-made content over Canadian ones. This could result in a significant loss in e-commerce, viewership, overall exposure that Canadians get via the internet. Without Net Neutrality, companies could go out of business, artists could never get discovered and Canada as a whole becomes less interesting on a global scale.
4. Setting a Regulatory Precedent:
If Net Neutrality is abolished in America and all the restrictions above are put in place, this could set the stage for an internet arm’s race in other countries. If the United States begins limiting Canadian content, how long is it before the Canadian Government decides that it wants to empower it’s own people and begins limited American Content. This could result in price-hike after price-hike of “imported” internet content where nobody wins and everyone loses.
There is a possibility of the vote being delayed due to an ongoing legal battle between the FCC and AT&T, but more than likely December 14th could be a date that changes everything. Although we(Canadians) are not politically involved in the vote occurring on December 14th, we can support the initiative to save Net Neutrality. Change.org has a petition currently circulating with over 990,000 signatures. Please sign up and sign the petition and show solidarity to save the free internet.