Net Neutrality is a term that has been met with bored looks and shrugs for the past few years. It is a boring subject, but one that is extremely important for all users of the Internet, all over the world.
The world’s most popular Internet highway is about to lose their net neutrality, and here’s how it can affect you.
Net Neutrality is the principle that no Internet service provider shall decide what you are allowed to watch and what services you’re allowed to access.
In clear terms, this means that a service provider is not allowed to arbitrarily slow down access to a specific website and ask the owners of that site, or their users, for extra compensation to bring the speed back up.
In 2014, Internet giant Verizon noticed that Netflix stood for a majority of their traffic, and that they needed to upgrade their network in order to keep up with demand. Not content with what their users already pay, they wanted Netflix to pay for those upgrades. To do this, they slowed down the connection of all their users to Netflix until Netflix succumbed and paid the fee.
According to the 2015 Net Neutrality Act, this is illegal in the US, but that may change very soon.
President Donald Trump appointed former FCC chairman Ajit Pai to be the head of FCC, the organization that enacted and controls the Net Neutrality Act. Pai is a very outspoken opponent of net neutrality and has made it his first point of order to dissolve the act all together.
He also intends to loosen the regulations, allowing the 5 major Internet Service Providers of the US to merge into one megacorporation. This is against the law right now, as that would create an unfair monopoly, with all the power in the hands of the corporations rather than the people.
But that’s the US. 60% of our readers are in the US, but what about the other 40%? How can something in the US affect the rest of us?
Consider this: Second Life, InWorldz, Netflix, Amazon, Youtube, Twitch, Hitbox, eBay, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Origin, Steam, Kindle, WordPress, Blogspot and iTunes have all their main servers in the US. They are owned and operated in the US. Their main audience is in the US.
They will have to win the bid wars to the megaprovider in order to get their business back, or risk a severe slowdown (or even blocking).
If, for example, Youtube decides they want to get rid of their streaming competitors Twitch and Hitbox, they may use their near infinite wallet to strongarm the megaprovider into speeding up Youtube Live while either slowing down or completely blocking Twitch and Hitbox for all their users. That would mean about 95% of all Internet users in the US would be forced to use Youtube for all their streaming and watching of streams. With such a big chunk of their audience gone, those websites will most likely close.
InWorldz and Second Life are both very resource heavy programs, requiring constant streaming of huge amounts of data. If the megaprovider wishes for Linden Lab or InWorldz to pay for the heavy traffic, these worlds might perish completely. Both of them have their main audience in the US. One is being phased out as soon as Sansar rolls out and the other is funded by a very small group of people.
If a bid war starts between Valve and EA, the providers might have to pick between Steam or Origin, as both companies will undoubtedly want their rivals gone.
Even if the megaprovider doesn’t become a thing, the 5 service providers have already divided up most of the country among themselves, with 85% of the country only having 1 or 2 providers to chose from in any given area. It’s not just a case of getting another provider if yours is slowing or shutting down your favourite service. And the rest of us, who have no say over any of that are going to be affected as well.
Wall Street Journal explained the situation very well 2 years ago:
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