Today, because of net neutrality, when you access the internet, you have the freedom to access anything and everything which is legal on the internet. The speed at which the site loads is only dependent on your wifi speed or your data speed. However, with the withdrawal of net neutrality, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can have a say on what site you are allowed to visit and at what speed will a particular site load. In simple words, Net Neutrality treats everything on the internet equally.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the United States, an autonomous body that regulates interstate communications (via TV, radio, satellite, cable), in 2015 had tightened rules to prevent ISPs from illegally blocking or slowing down sites under Obama’s instructions. When Ajit Pai was sworn in as the chairman in January, he had vowed to revoke the existing regulations. Standing by his promise, the Republican chairman, under Trump’s directions, on Nov 21st, rolled out a plan, ‘Restoring Internet Freedom’ to repeal all the existing net neutrality rules. The plan has been shared with FCC and a vote would be held to determine the future of FCC. Since three out of five slots of the FCC are owned by the Republicans, the plan in all likelihood will pass.
Let’s look what it would be like without Net Neutrality.
1. Unhealthy and unfair competition between large companies:
With the withdrawal of net neutrality, there would be a significant increase in competition between large companies, all trying to buy their way into the internet. What this would imply is that if you want to watch a video on YouTube over something on Netflix, it could stream slower if Netflix has paid more to the service provider. This concept is known as ‘fast lanes’.
Not just between big companies, this would also mean unfair competition between large and small companies.
2. Small companies are going to suffer big time:
The smaller companies would bear the brunt of net neutrality the most and their dreams of becoming the next Google or Facebook would be squashed. This is because smaller companies would not have enough capital to pay service providers in order to be preferred over other well-established websites. They also wouldn’t be able to pay for faster speeds, making it difficult for their target audience to easily access the site. This would effectively end or greatly limit all paths for them and even startups to grow and prosper.
3. ISPs are going to be the biggest winners:
The Internet Service Providers would be the ultimate decision makers with all the strings being in their hands and the power to cut the strings if need be. This would mean that the websites would keep shoving money in order to be prioritised over other websites, while the ISPs would sit and enjoy large profits. In fact, companies like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T are already supporting the removal of net neutrality, given how much they would benefit from it.
4. The Internet users would have restricted access to the online content:
Removal of Net Neutrality would clearly be a nightmare for the netizens. They might not be able to access the websites they are very easily able to access today.
For instance, your Internet Service Provider for X amount might give you a package where you can access Whatsapp, Facebook and Instagram. Now say, you want to access YouTube and Wikipedia, you will have to buy another package of X amount. Similarly, you will have to purchase different packages for different websites that you are interested in. This severely restricts the content one can access on a day-to-basis, making it inconvenient and expensive. It also encroaches upon the basic Internet rights of the people.
5. The tremors of this are going to be felt in India too
Even though the epicenter will be America, the tremors would reach India and other countries too. Say, you are an organisation operating in India and most of your content is targeted towards Indians and Americans, amongst others. There will be a sharp drop in your consumer base sitting in America as they would now have to pay an extra amount just to consume the content you are providing. This could severely impact your company’s reach and revenue.