Should telecommunications companies in the United States offer Internet with equal access for all?
They already do it, but this Thursday the panorama changed drastically.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to reverse the regulations approved in 2015 under the government of former President Barack Obama that protects the so-called “internet neutrality”.
What are the main consequences that will bring the end of Internet neutrality in the United States (and how it will affect the rest of the world)
United States puts an end to the neutrality of the network that ensures equal access to the internet
The FCC is now controlled by the ruling Republican Party, which since Donald Trump assumed the presidency in January of this year proposed to end these regulations
The possible end of net neutrality, as it is known in English, provoked criticism and protests from activists opposed to the Trump government and technological giants such as Apple and Facebook.
What is the neutrality of the internet?
Until now, the current laws in the United States established that Internet service providers (ISPs) must provide users with equal access to all (legal) content, regardless of the source.
Therefore, all data and information must be provided at the same level and telecommunications companies can not block content or reduce the speed of certain Internet traffic.
Nor can they give preferential treatment to their own content with their competitors.
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Law professor Tim Wu, who coined the term in 2002, said in a column published almost a month ago in The New York Times that “without basic protections of internet neutrality services such as Skype and Netflix would have had an early death”
What is the impact of eliminating it?
Without laws that protect these principles, activists in favor of internet neutrality argue that ISPs will have free rein to exploit new powers by limiting certain types of Internet traffic.
For example, an ISP could decide if it charges extra for the use of a service such as Netflix or if it gives an advantage to a company by not counting the use of certain services when it charges bandwidth data to its users.
These scenarios are hypothetical, because so far they have been prohibited by law.
“The ISPs could create a special fast track for content providers who want to pay more,” Corey Price, vice president of porn streaming platform PornHub, told the BBC last July.
“That means that streaming (retransmission or downloading of data) may be slower, especially with regard to pornography on the Internet,” he added.
Would the world stop if the internet stopped working for a day?
According to analysts, ending the regulations will imply a victory for the large telecommunications companies, which will have more freedom and power in their operations.
Some companies, however, have said that they will not take advantage of a change in regulations to start charging content providers for access to consumers.
On the company’s Comcast blog, one of its managers wrote in mid-November: “Comcast has made internet neutrality a promise to our customers and we will continue to follow those standards, regardless of the regulations that are in effect.”
What do those who want to eliminate it say?
Those who advocate the end of internet neutrality argue that it unduly restricts the business world and that it is necessary to update the legislation.
The main champion of the change is the director of the FCC, Ajit Pai, who was appointed by President Trump.
According to Pai, the regulations of the Obama era have done nothing but “depress investment in the construction and expansion of broadband networks, and discourage innovation.”
The regulator has argued in previous months that the possible impact of a deregulation “has been exaggerated” and that this would help to improve competition and remove government interference in the use of the Internet.
In a decision designed to dispel fears of possible foul play, explains BBC correspondent Dave Lee, the FCC and the US Federal Trade Commission. (FTC, for its acronym in English) announced last Monday a joint collaboration to punish the unfair behavior of telecommunications companies.
Who defend their permanence?
More than 180 technology companies in the country held a protest on the Internet last July called “Day of Action”, which involved giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook.
In mid-November, when the draft of the FCC was released to propose changes on net neutrality, hundreds of companies charged again against the initiative.
Facebook said they were “disappointed that the FCC proposal failed to maintain strong protections for internet neutrality that ensure it remains open to all.”
“I’ve been disconnected from the internet for a year and I do not miss anything”
In its own statement, Google said that the current regulations “were working well.”
Meanwhile, Netflix wrote on Twitter: “This draft has not been officially voted, so we are opposing it publicly and loudly now.”
In an open letter to the regulator, a group of 1,000 small businesses in the US wrote: “We rely on an open internet, including rules of net neutrality, to ensure that large cable companies can not discriminate against people like us. ”
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Days before Thursday’s vote at the FCC, another open letter, this time signed by several network pioneers, said the commission “does not know what it is doing.”
“It is important to understand that the order proposed by the FCC is based on a faulty and objectively inaccurate understanding of internet technology,” the statement read.
Among the signatories, there are architects from the World Wide Web (www), such as Vint Cerf and Sir Tim Berners-Lee, together with Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple.