We might take our internet freedom for granted, but our Internet rights can be compromised too. Net Neutrality is the new hot topic in tech and politics. Here’s what it is and why you should know more about it.

We can immediately agree that the Internet has turned our lives upside down. This is mainly because words such as ‘freedom’, ‘unlimited communication’, ‘quick access’, among others characterise the Internet for what it is. We love it and can’t seem to live without it. Unfortunately, things are taking a turn in the U.S. as Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai intends to kill Net Neutrality. Now, for us living in Europe (or anywhere else outside of the U.S.), we might brush off the thought that this will endanger our Internet use right away. And yet, take a second to consider if that will really be the case: will this have an affect on me? My answer is yes.

What is Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality refers to Internet’s most fundamental principle — that is, it allows for users to freely utilise the purposes of open communication in an online environment. This implies that user expectations for going online are met, without any hindrance on the part of Internet service providers in allowing access to any site and information that users seek. In other words, Net Neutrality protects users from Internet service providers (ISPs) such as AT&T, Comcast, Verizon in the U.S., or Ziggo, SURFnet, Casema in the Netherlands from limiting user control on the Internet. This could mean blocking content, speeding up or slowing down access to web sites and pages. Net Neutrality aims to preserve equality online, which is required in order to continue treating the Internet as a platform that anyone and everyone has the equal chances of using.

The current issue in the U.S.

Twitter has been buzzing about #NetNeutrality to make salient the importance of its existence. Trump’s FCC chairman Ajit Pai is shutting down Net Neutrality and this proposal was soon sanctioned as the FCC will cast their votes on December 14, 2017 on whether to pass this law. Twitter users starting from Hollywood celebrities to world-renowned American vloggers such as Casey Neistat are voicing out their opinions to raise awareness in the public and get as many people involved.

Killing Net Neutrality would mean that users no longer have the complete freedom and control over their own use and consumption of the Internet. A more favourable exposure to incumbent and renowned businesses are then readily available online, leaving start-ups the same fate of exposure as in the offline environment — stagnant and not allowing to be easily discovered by potential markets. Open Internet would be unobtainable and hence inhibit innovation and advancement in the long run. Where would we be without these two qualities, then?

Killing Net Neutrality would mean that users no longer have the complete freedom and control over their own use and consumption of the Internet

To shake public opinion, it has also been discovered that at least 1.3 million comments were against Net Neutrality, but get this — according to data scientist Jeff Kao these were the comments that he found to be at least the number of fake comments created by spambots. Fake comments were identified through duplicates of the same content but using synonyms, and using words that typical lobbying groups would use instead of regular people. Here is an attempt at trying to manipulate the public opinion; yet another ‘fake-something’ as a tool to deceive and influence the public, as brought to you by the Trump administration.

Net Neutrality in the EU and how it’ll help the U.S.

The European Parliament, on the other hand, is 100 percent pro Net Neutrality. Guidelines published by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) have strictly declared that ISPs are forbidden to meddle with Internet traffic. However, the guidelines are still far from perfect as they contain several loopholes. These loopholes are such as creating ‘fast lanes’ for ‘specialised services’ and also allowing sites for zero-rating, which allows certain apps and/or services from operating under zero monthly data limits — opening such apps or services would not get charged to users’ monthly Internet data package. Nonetheless, BEREC still upholds the value of Internet equality; these loopholes will only be acted upon in the event of suspicions against their very core value of equality.

The worst thing is that some people in the U.S. are still not aware that this battle is currently taking place

To support our friends in the U.S. in this fight to defend Net Neutrality, would be an important message worth spreading. By urgently placing ourselves in their shoes and examining whether we’d like to have our full and free Internet rights taken away from us, we should realize early on in this battle that we can still do something about it. The worst thing is that some people in the U.S. are still not aware that this battle is currently taking place. Luckily, in this day and age it’s very easy to get informed as media exposure is inevitable. We now have social media, and can use it to our full disposal — and for a cause like this, we should use social media to its full potential while we can.

Cover: Pixabay/geralt

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