US is on the brink of destroying net neutrality, yet again

Plan to repeal the 'heavy-handed internet regulations' from the previous Obama administration is underway.

 |  3-minute read |   22-11-2017
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While we may be troubled with issues like nose-chopping and historical inaccuracy on this side of the globe, at the other end – in the United States of America – people, at least the masses that live on the internet, are concerned with something far more fundamental: internet neutrality. If you have heard of that term, or at least heard the more common phrase “net neutrality”, it is only because India too faced this impending doom some time ago.

So, why do the netizens of America have their knickers in a bunch right now? We break it down for you.

Who is Ajit Pai?

The reason why Americans are so worried, so much so, that in the past 24 hours the only thing that has dominated the discussions on almost all subreddits in is net neutrality, is because of a man called Ajit Varadaraj Pai, an Indian-American who serves as the chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC is an independent agency of the US government that regulates communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable.

ajit_112217100208.jpgPhoto: Reuters

What has Ajit Pai done?

Pai, on November 21, proposed to repeal the “heavy-handed internet regulations imposed by the Obama Administration and to return to the light-touch framework under which the internet developed and thrived before 2015”.

In a Wall Street Journal column, Pai elaborated on this proposal, essentially saying that the FCC will vote to put an end to its net neutrality rules in December, effectively planning to reverse the Title II classification of internet providers, which allows the agency to put strict limits on their behaviour, and replace it with the old “information service” classification.

What does this mean?

“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet,” Pai said in a statement. “Instead, the FCC would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.”

While this may sound like a good thing, it isn’t. What it really means is that if this proposal is indeed passed, not only would the FCC end up repealing all of its rules that are in place to uphold net neutrality, but also that state and local governments will no longer be able to impose local laws regulating broadband service. Essentially, high-speed internet services, such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T, would be able to block websites they do not like and charge web companies for speedier delivery of their content.

Wait, what was net neutrality again?

In its essence, net neutrality is a principle that dictates internet providers to treat all web traffic equally, and that internet service providers cannot prioritise their content over competitors'. Net neutrality rules basically make ISPs behave like pipelines carrying data. They are not allowed to mess with the flow and the speed of this data.

Without the ability to manipulate this flow, ISPs have limited control over the internet. But should they no longer be dictated by these essential laws, only chaos will ensue.

Think of it this way: Without the net neutrality guidelines, ISPs will behave like the municipality telling you how you use the water that comes to your house. If you want to water plants you'll have to pay extra. How you use the water, should not be of any concern to the municipality. Whether you drink it, bathe in it, cook with it, or play Holi with it, should ultimately remain your call.

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