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Who really benefits from net neutrality?

Net neutrality is one of the biggest topics in tech being discussed right now. By the end of the year, the US risks drastically changing its relationship with the internet but, in the end, who will really benefit from all these changes? We’ll explain it all in this article.

The origin of net neutrality

It all started in 2002 when Tim Wu, professor at Columbia Law School, became interested in various facets of the internet. He concluded that everyone should be able to use it as they wished, within the confines of the law. He quickly discovered the difficulty: the more users there are, the more resources are required to allow them to keep using the internet.

Internet service providers, or ISPs, who make the network available to the users, had huge expenses. Consequently, a way needed to be found to finance them which resulted in the emergence of tariffs. The faster the internet speed you wanted, the more you’d have to pay. Of course, each service provider also offers their own range of advanced services.

Tim Wu coined the phrase net neutrality to describe the principle that internet service providers should allow equal access to all the various content and applications available online. ISPs aren't exactly in love with this idea, and periodically make moves to undermine net neutrality.

This fall, Ajit Pai, the chairman of the FCC, has proposed a real revolution in political and economic terms: to abandon net neutrality completely.

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The internet giants are viewing these changes very negatively. / © AndroidPIT

What is net neutrality?

So far, Tim Wu’s principles have been adopted and adhered to: Internet users all have the same rights. You can watch any television channel included in your tariff, or you can visit any site. From an economic perspective, you’re a client just like any other. From a legal perspective, you’re a user just like any other, no matter which services or the amount of data you use. Outside of your usage, nothing sets you apart from other users.

This is exactly what the FCC wants to change: internet users will no longer be users just like any other, their rights on the web will no longer be universal. According to Ajit Pai this would allow for new investments to be made and would open the door to innovation as well as the creation of jobs.

Why have things changed?

Barack Obama was a strong advocate for freedom online. In 2015, he implemented a reform along these lines which was a severe thorn in the side of the internet service providers and operators because it harmed their competitive edge. Unfortunately for us, his successor doesn’t share his vision and decided to wipe the slate clean.

The President of the United States has made his position against the neutrality of the internet perfectly clear. Some see it as a deliberate attempt to undermine the achievements of his predecessor since he backtracked on a reform that President Obama had strongly championed.

We’ll know more in December after the vote but, whatever the outcome, it will have an impact worldwide. Europe in particular won’t adopt such measures so easily since the BEREC (Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications) remains committed to net neutrality. In Portugal, the operator MEO is cheating a little, just like AT&T has done in the US, by offering free data for Netflix for an extra fee. It will be interesting to see how the situation develops.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this matter is all about politics, quite the contrary.

Who stands to gain?

The operators and service providers...

You’ve probably guessed: Internet service providers stand to gain enormously. For a long time, they’ve been dreaming of more room to maneuver. AT&T has more or less already done it with their “zero-rating”, a capacity to bypass the American law by offering some services to users for free and charging for others. In practice, this allowed them to beat their competition to the post as they were offering their own services in the package.

In addition to this, without net neutrality, companies will be able to create packages to facilitate access to certain data, for example, a Facebook package that allows users who buy it to not pay for data when they access the social network platform.

It’s important to note that the internet hasn’t made life for operators or service providers particularly easy. They view communications via the internet (via Skype, mainly) as casting a shadow over their business, and then came along FaceTime and other online voice conversation applications.

In terms of bandwidth, data-greedy applications such as Netflix or YouTube force the operators to adapt by investing more in better facilities.

Below you’ll see what tariffs could look like after net neutrality has disappeared:

... and many others

However, service providers and operators are far from the only ones to benefit from this situation. Many people (the chairman of FCC is at the top of the list) consider net neutrality to be a mistake and they support this project.

Hardware manufacturers (Qualcomm, in particular) view this reform as a possibility to boost competition as they will have more demand from operators which will feed through to innovation in the short or medium term.  

Many other companies cite the various problems caused by online anonymity as an argument. Some illegal activities (such downloads of copyrighted media) and other controversial activities could theoretically be made much more difficult without net neutrality.

Winners and losers

Of course, the user is at the heart of this matter as we’re the ones being milked for money. Users will lose their freedom of use and will probably have to pay more on top of it, to add insult to injury.

Many US internet users recognize this, and are mobilizing to fight for their rights. At battleforthenet.com, you can find information on methods that citizens are using to attempt to sway the vote on December 14, including protests as well as contacting the FCC and members of Congress.

It's not just the average user that stands to lose out. Internet companies who have a business plan based on a mass of users will feel cheated. Unless they make contracts directly with the service providers or operators, which obviously requires a financial investment, these companies might find their services as accessible but not necessarily privileged (if you don’t have the Facebook package, you’ll have to pay for the data, for example).

Internet companies are already finding ways to compete with the more established telecommunications providers. WhatsApp and Facebook, for example, aim to capture more users by offering their own prepaid cards.

If the FCC succeeds in doing away with net neutrality on December 14, the entire digital landscape would change rapidly, to say nothing of the impact on our bank accounts. If indeed it leads to more innovation coming from corporations, it had better be worth the cost to all of us users.

Do you think the FCC is right to want to dispose of net neutrality?

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  • God bless the good ol' USA.. those benevolent corporations are going to make the whole internet so much more profitable.. lots of happy shareholders enjoying American democracy


  • ISP's & Govt. Surveillances are gonna interfere with the back doors now. Ian't in the favor. :( But Still there are some Pros & Cons of Net Neutrality, you must a look.
    https://www.purevpn.com/blog/net-neutrality-pros-and-cons/


  • The irony. Trump rose to power though cunning manipulation of free social media. He still tweets his inane rubbish on a free social media now. I would pay not to have that!


  • Mike 1 week ago Link to comment

    Because the government always makes things better 8-)


  • "Net Neutrality" is a guiding principle that preserves a right to communicate freely online..
    it's about freedom and choice,
    it's not perfect but it's important and very easy to take for granted..

    it's most definitely a political move, the worst sort of political bs that's indistinguishable from the worst sort of business practice.. it's about greed and control.
    what's been most surprising is the FCC actually adopting net neutrality in 2015 and not surprising was the immediate response and lobbying by the likes of Verizon, Comcast, AT&T to change the rules.
    Now in USA you have a President with the political acumen and integrity of a 2nd hand car salesman and a desire to run everything like a business..
    so Trumps pal FCC chairman Ajit Pai (ex Verizon lawyer) and big business are happy to take control of the internet cos their gonna make loads of profit.. .
    "innovation" will be used to generate more profit.. . Americans will pay more for less, ISP's won't just control access to internet but will also have a disturbing amount of influence over content..


  • What's missing in the "free market" rationale for doing away with NN is that the ISPs / telcos are a functional oligopoly in the USA and in many service areas essentially a monopoly service - if broadband service walks like a utility and quacks like a utility it should be regulated like a utility - the spectrum and wiring rights are all auctioned, tendered and heavily restricted and publicly owned.

    What the ISPs and telcos will gain is the right to sell "fast lane" access to big content payers, and relegate the broader internet community to slower and lower service - murdering start ups in their cradles and perpetuating online content and service site dominance by the fat boys and their homogenized mass market pablum (we'll have to see if the flourishing x-rated content, gambling industries, etc. don't find a way to buy bandwidth they need). The same phony "free market" rationale that permits fast lane service discrimination also fails to force the ISPs and telcos to allow wholesale competitors to buy access to the monopoly-utility infrastructure. If you're going to abolish NN as a forced requirement, that would be the only basis for protecting consumers and innovators, because competing smaller ISP / Telco services would be able to supply the competing broadband priority arrangements - including NN - that the monopolists won't.


  • I don't get it. From an access point of view, the "net neutrality" guys are like people who buy a car but don't want to pay for the gas. Why not pay by data usage?


    • Incorrect. I pay for a pipe and the ISP should tell me the bandwidth I get. Period. They should not decide how I get to use my pipe. Your analogy is wrong.


      • Dave 1 week ago Link to comment

        There's a lot of phony hype and misinformation around this issue... Most of the problems people warn would be created are not based on much evidence. The bottom line is, the government should keep its hands off the Internet and allow the free market to do its thing.
        Sadly, the "powers that be" have found very clever ways to coax people into accepting stronger government control in these things, which very often hurts a lot more than it helps in the long run... I think the concerns people have are legitimate and we need to discuss them, but we need to be honest about the whole issue. The Daily Wire put out a pretty good article on some of this over the summer. I can't post the link here, but do a search for the article "7-reasons-net-neutrality-idiotic-aaron-bandler"


      • remyj 4 days ago Link to comment

        Thanks for the counter argument and the link. Since last summer, the bulk of media attention has sided with the nn side and most everything I read in favor of nn seemed to make sense to me. Yet, in the back of my mind I knew there also had to be some good arguments against nn too, I just was not seeing them. The link to 7 reasons was a well laid out argument against nn and it gave me better insight to both sides to better equip me to form my views on the matter. So again, thanks for the link!


    • It's more like buying a car, buying gas, but then every road suddenly becomes a toll road. You don't get anywhere faster, you don't beat the traffic, you just pay more to get to the same places that used to be free.

      Removing net neutrality is just a way for ISP's to charge more to provide you with the same service. People don't like paying lots of little fees to lots of people, they want everything in one place. I think people will choose to pay for a VPN and go back to pirating content rather than pay $10 a month to their ISP to access $10 a month services like Netflix.


      • Dave 3 days ago Link to comment

        I think Net Neutrality is more like shutting down the express lane so we all have to suffer in the same lousy traffic. Sure we all get the same basic deal, but why on earth is that good? Heck, if I have to drive downtown and the news is reporting lousy traffic, I look for an alternate route... Doesn't everybody? Net Neutrality says, "Hey, no alternate routes allowed!" It's like forcing everyone to drive across country instead of giving them the option to take a flight instead.

        What the heck is wrong with allowing people to pay for choice in the services they use? And what is wrong with allowing the companies who offer those services and who pay huge expenses to build, maintain, and manage them (not to mention the heavy taxes they are levied by the government), to adjust their fees accordingly and to engage in healthy market competition? Why would a cell phone user need the same bandwidth that a PC gamer needs? Net Neutrality forces such nonsense... Have you ever been to a convention and experienced lousy connection on your devices because everyone is bogging down the network? Why not allow service providers to permit fast lanes depending on usage needs and etc?

        In my opinion, Net Neutrality kills innovation and leaves everything to the players with all the money, like Google and Facebook. I want to see smaller companies and companies with better ideas able to compete. I don't think prices are going to skyrocket either. I believe that is mostly hype and propaganda... and, sadly, a lot of the masses are buying it. For one, it didn't happen in any significant measure before Net Neutrality and, I don't know about the rest of you, but my stupid cable Internet bill has only gotten larger over the past two years for the same lousy service I had BEFORE Net Neutrality.

        I say get government out of the business and let the free marker take over. With increased competition we will very likely see more options, improved technologies, and lower prices over the long-run. That tends to be the consistent result of free market enterprise. Why would we assume it would be any different with Internet services?

        This fear that life will end if we don't give the government full control of everything is ridiculous. Just look at how wonderful healthcare turned out (ridiculous premiums, un-affordable deductibles, annual penalties, you can keep your doctor and all that nonsense)...

        As for the argument about pirating content, people do that now, so not sure how that changes anything. People will always do that stuff. Netflix (since that example was brought up) used to be about $5 bucks a month and there were more movies available than there are now. Now, Netflix is $10 bucks a month and while they have brought out some new series, they have also dropped tons of movies and TV shows from their listings that we used to enjoy watching. What if the next "Netflix" is out there, waiting to be invented, and what if it ends up charging $3 bucks and more entertainment options (or at least fills in the gaps)? With Net Neutrality the prospects are low that it will happen.

        Net Neutrality is the slow train. It also puts the FCC in full charge of our content. If they don't think it's appropriate (be it for political reasons, religious, or whatever) they can block it or regulate it to death. Though I don't think it's going to jack prices up (in the long run), at the same time I must say that I don't mind getting what I pay for and would gladly welcome competition to the market. I would happily pay more for twice the speed I have now. As it is, and as I already mentioned, I'm already paying more and getting the same old thing.

        Bottom line, the end of Net Neutrality is not going to be the end of the Internet. Ending Net Neutrality liberates the Internet and opens up job opportunities and the prospect of massively improved technology and services. This is a good thing!


      • Right now, in Canada, I've got 300mb fibre optic ethernet (about 50mb wif) from Bell Canada and the ISP is required to supply that for anything and everything I browse or use an Android app to access. If something goes slow it's the content service's fault, goodbye. Same goes for the Rogers cable service, the only alternative. I pay a good monthly fee for that service. Not good enough for ISPs in the USA - they need more, more, more.

        YOU are saying "free enterprise" would be for these monopolist conduit owners to throttle anything and everything except those content services paying them extra - billing ME extra - for reliable delivery of their preferred content, or making that impossible altogether. That's not a free market in content, it's a rigged, exploitive, captive market caused by the ISP for nothing other than manipulated profit - with the constant risk of ulterior political agendas or backdoor deals to crush competing innovation. There's a very good reason that while this is all going on, there are merger / acquisition efforts by pipeline owners to acquire content platforms (e.g. ATT / Time Warner) and increasing threats to transform the open internet into something resembling the botched TV cable system of monopoly content delivery. If you like cable TV, you'll love Trump's Net Discriminatory delivery scheme.

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