What is Net Neutrality & Why should you care?

By: Vanessa Bret-Mounet – Blog Editor

As some of you may know, the FCC will vote about the outcome of Net Neutrality on December 14th in the US. Although, I’m sure you have heard a lot about it and seen a lot of posts on your various social media, many of you may not know what it actually entails. So, what is Net Neutrality and why should you worry that there is a risk you might lose the privilege at the end of this year?

Imagine you’re playing a video game. You’re close to the end; about to beat the final level when you realize that in order to win you have to pay an extra fee, for some kind of weapon or level access whatever it might be. Not all of you are gamers, but I’m sure all of you could imagine the frustration and injustice of having purchased something only for you to need to spend more just to get what you actually wanted in the first place. To put it more concisely, Net Neutrality is the concept that ISPs, internet service providers like Rogers or Bell, do not have the right to charge more or throttle for certain usages of the internet. Basically, all types of people using the Internet are treated equally under the current Net Neutrality policy of the US. Throttling, for the unaware, is when ISPs slow down the internet for certain types of internet usage or at certain data usages. For example, paying for unlimited data might not necessarily mean unlimited data since companies often throttle after a certain usage point. Not all countries have a Net Neutrality policy, and the US’s is currently just classifying the Internet as a public telecommunications service so companies can’t discriminate. The upcoming vote is to repeal this classification and the Net Neutrality protection it created. Canada has no real protection of Net Neutrality in place, and in fact it has allowed ISPs a usage based billing, which some have seen as violating the principle of Net Neutrality (usage based billing is when you have a known capped and are charged exorbitant fees for all the data above that point).

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Source: Flickr

So why is this important? When you go on the Internet you expect access to be unlimited and if companies were allowed to interfere with this the Internet as a whole would change completely. Essentially, this is a push towards Internet companies functioning in a similar way to cable companies, and we all know how frustrating that is. They charge more for certain packages, those packages having the channels and content we want. Could you imagine only certain people, like the ones who could afford it, being allowed access to Netflix? Or YouTube? Or even Facebook? Could you imagine not being able to watch the latest shows because you can’t afford to pay for the Netflix package? The imaginary dystopia we read about is seemingly turning into a disturbing reality and repealing net neutrality only promotes censorship. The Internet was established to help people and bring people together, it’s not meant to be turned into such a divisive, capitalist venture. The companies pushing towards the repeal are looking out for themselves and will set a dangerous precedent if Net Neutrality repealed.

Want to help? You can join the battle.
Click here if you’re American: https://www.battleforthenet.com/
Canadians, click here: https://act.openmedia.org/WorldForTheWeb?
Lastly, you can also share this article about Net Neutrality on social media to increase awareness amongst your friends!

Vanessa is a U3 McGill Student and OpenMedia McGill’s Blog Editor.

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