Tech companies and web activists united Wednesday for an online protest aimed at fighting the repeal of rules that govern internet access.
The rules center on net neutrality — protections put in place with the aim that internet providers like Comcast and Verizon “should treat all web traffic equally and fairly,” according to NPR. The Obama-era regulations were passed in 2015, but a Federal Communications Commission vote in May indicated the FCC intends to reverse the regulations.
The net neutrality day of action was marked by tech companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Netflix, along with activist groups, protesting the reversal, according to The Verge. Notable opposers such as web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden shared why they support net neutrality.
Here’s what to know about the proposed rollback as the FCC takes public comments until Monday (responses to other comments are due Aug. 16).
Effect on streaming
Netflix has stepped up to play a big role in the “Day of Action” because of the rollback’s potential threat to streaming through internet service providers (ISPs) that could slow down streaming speeds, according to The Huffington Post.
Without net neutrality, cable providers could deter people from using online streaming platforms to prioritize cable TV. Streaming could also become pricier.
“Imagine going to YouTube, Amazon or Netflix and seeing a message saying something along the lines of, ‘To access this site you must pay $5.99/month access fee to your internet provider. If you would like to be able to stream without buffering for 10 minutes or more, an additional $2 fee will be added for each video,'” The Huffington Post report read.
Internet service providers are rollback’s beneficiary
USA Today reported the 2015 regulations’ primary aim was to make sure ISPs can’t “block, speed or slow down legal websites — or give preferential treatment to others, including their own.”
Internet forums in part made net neutrality a popular cause out of fear that ISPs would have too much control over users’ online experience, though USA Today indicated many ISPs said they wouldn’t give preferential treatment.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said an unfair “burden” on ISPs is a reason for his support of reversing net neutrality, according to USA Today.
Further protections wouldn’t apply
Along with slashing measures to prevent blocking and paid prioritization, the rollback would eliminate lesser-known FCC regulations on ISPs, all part of the FCC’s Title II authority on net neutrality, according to Ars Technica.
“Title II provisions related to broadband network construction, universal service, competition, network interconnection and internet access for disabled people would no longer apply,” according to the Ars Technica report.
Hampering connected world?
An ever-changing aspect of the internet is all the devices one user can connect to it. Wired noted how overturning the FCC’s authority on net neutrality could hinder the experience of people with laptops, tablets, smartphones and more.
“Dismissing the rules could be a big problem for the future of the Internet of Things, since companies like Comcast — which is already working on its own smart home platform — certainly have the motivation to create fast and slow lanes for particular gadgets and services,” Wired’s report read. “If your internet provider can decide which personal assistant or smart home gadgets you can or can’t use, the broadband can dictate the winners and losers in the Internet of Things race.”
Net neutrality and future growth
“Legacy” tech companies might be able to buy their way into the “fast lane” of internet service, according to Fortune. But the lack of regulations has implications on future online growth.
And that goes for both internet services and users, Fortune indicated.
“The internet was built on the simple but powerful idea that while you, the customer, may need to pay a service provider for internet access, that provider doesn’t get to shape what you access,” according to Fortune. “… Anyone who wants to offer a new internet service can reach everyone on the internet, without paying extra fees to any provider. Users, in turn, can make their own choices about which services they want to use — including the next Twitter, Facebook or Snapchat that’s being created in someone’s basement right now.”