You might have heard a bit about Net Neutrality from our American cousins over the past few months. Companies that provide internet services have been demanding that certain websites, such as Netflix, pay fees to allow their services to function faster. The problem with this is that other websites that cannot afford to pay fees will suffer, and be slower as a result. Can you imagine a world in which Facebook and Google run lightning fast, but smaller websites are sluggish and very slow to function? This is what the US could be facing in the near future, and goes against the neutral internet policy that we have been using for the past couple of decades.
But how does this affect the UK? Luckily for us, the European Parliament recently voted overwhelmingly against this for members of the European Union such as ourselves. We’re far from out of the woods yet – it still needs to be accepted by the leaders of each individual company – but it seems that the US is in more immediate danger.
Why should I care about a decision in the US?
It’s true that your speeds may not suffer personally as a result of changes by companies in another country, but it’s much larger than that, and could change the internet forever.
Let’s imagine for a second that this goes ahead. America makes up a large portion of all internet traffic, and most of the major internet companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon are based there. Once they start paying major fees they will want to make their money back somewhere, and it’s likely that they would start charging more, or have to modify previous free models. Not just for Americans, potentially for everyone.
On top of that service providers in Europe would start to see what cable companies are getting away with overseas and think that it acceptable; it could very easily spread. Smaller websites will see much less traffic because their websites are slower, and could struggle to survive as a result.
In short, the fight for Net Neutrality is something that would be positive for all consumers. That’s why it’s important to join it, and why I encourage you to get involved with the Battle for the Net campaign.