On the first days of February, Ajit Pai was named director of the Federal Communications Commission or FCC. He’s been advocating that the net neutrality has to end, and since taking on his new position he’s been doing some movements on that direction. On the past Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Ajit Pai talked about the deregulation of the Internet and the benefits that this will bring to the consumers. He said that more flexible rules will allow internet providers to offer better services and lower prices. This is a matter that highly worries me. I’m going to try to explain why.
What is the net neutrality and why it matters
Net neutrality is what ensures that there is no speed or other type of discrimination. That means that your internet provider will send you the data from all websites at the same speed, with the same cost, etc. For example, let’s say that you want to watch a movie tonight. You can choose to use Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Itunes, etc. The decision will be made based on the quality of the service, the catalog of movies or the pricing. You won’t have to worry if one of them will go faster or slower.
The fact that the Internet is like that, is what makes it possible for new startups to be successful. That’s how Netflix, Facebook and others have become what they are today. They were all playing with the same rules and that allow them to overcome their predecessors by offering a better service. If we end net neutrality, we will be endangering the future of the Internet and reducing it’s capacity of innovation. This matters, and it’s about to go away.
How are the Internet providers killing the net neutrality
There are several examples to illustrate how Internet providers around the world are undermining the net neutrality. The strategy is simple. They offer free data for specific services based on their own products and alliances:
- In Spain, Vodafone has launched a new plan called Chat Zero. The plan includes free, unlimited data for some messaging apps including Whatsapp and Telegram but excluding Facebook Messenger.
- Also in Spain, Orange it’s currently offering 2gb to watch Orange TV in your phone for free with some of their plans. The fact that Orange TV will be cheaper, is a good incentive for the consumer to choose that service over other TV providers.
- Here in the UAE we have the Etisalat Unlimited Social Data Plan. I’m just gonna copy-paste what they say on their website. It’s clear and bad enough, no need for an explanation:
Our ever-popular Social Data Pack is now available for all kinds of smartphones. You can now enjoy unlimited access to your favorite social applications BBM, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and LinkedIn. Browsing, accessing Emails, YouTube, internet & video browsing will not be allowed and blocked.
- AT&T in the US offers free mobile data to use the DirectTV Now service (that they own). If you want to use Netflix, Hulu or others you will have to pay for the subscription + the data you consume.
All of the above, are clear examples of what the end of the net neutrality means. Some of you might see it as positive, as they are giving you an advantage on services that you already use. But don’t think about that. Think about the restrictions that they’re making and where this can end. The next step can be not allowing you to access some services (the Etisalat plan above already do that), or making some services go faster than others. You can have your Netflix subscription, login at a friends house to watch a movie and find out that the streaming is slow and low quality because he has a different provider.
Who is against this
Basically, everyone that is not an Internet provider. Multiple activists, journalists and corporations like Facebook or Google are pro net neutrality. This should make you see how important net neutrality is. If we let this happen, consumers and internet companies are gonna be in the hands of a few greedy companies that don’t care about the Internet and the freedom that it provides, but only about their own pockets.
I’m leaving here a video from Last Week Tonight. It’s a couple of years old, but what it says is as valid as it was before:
Main picture by Jay Wennington