The BCI

Day of protest over net neutrality

News   •   Jul 12, 2017 12:37 BST

Internet speeds are getting faster all the time with Internet Service Providers competing with each other to offer the fastest connections that can enable users to download entire videos in just seconds. But could that be about to change? Could ISPs have more control over the download speeds they offer? Ultimately, does this mean that ISPs could have more control over what we are able to download?

On the 12th July, tens of thousands of organizations will be joining a day of protest in support of net neutrality, the principle that ISPs treat everyone’s data equally, and they don’t get to vary the download speeds depending on the source of the data, or block sites altogether. The principle of net neutrality has often been described as 'first amendment of the internet' as it is about ensuring equality of access to online information.

In February 2015, during the Obama administration, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States voted to strictly regulate ISPs and enshrine in law the principles of net neutrality. The vote reclassified wireless and fixed-line broadband service providers as title II 'common carriers', which gave the FCC the ability to set rates, open up access to competitors and more closely regulate the industry. Two years on however, and Trump’s new FCC chairman - Ajit Pai, previously a lawyer at one of the major ISPs, is attempting to overturn that decision.

Removing net neutrality could allow ISPs to create special fast lanes for content providers they have arranged deals with, or perhaps more of a concern is that they could slow down traffic from content providers who are considered rivals.

Even AT&T, previously opponents of net neutrality are claiming to support the protest. Bob Quinn, Senior Executive Vice President of External and Legislative Affairs at the telecoms giant, commented: "We agree that no company should be allowed to block content or throttle the download speeds of content in a discriminatory manner. So, we are joining this effort because it’s consistent with AT&T’s proud history of championing our customers’ right to an open internet and access to the internet content, applications and devices of their choosing."