It has been impossible to not follow the impassioned national debate on Net Neutrality recently, and for good reason. Net Neutrality is important to all of us. You may not have thought much about it before, but that’s because Net Neutrality protections have been active in the U.S. for as long as you’ve been using the internet, and they’ve been effectively protecting a free and open internet.
So what is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is what governs the internet and the way we all openly use it today. It means that ISPs (Internet Service Providers), who are responsible for connecting us to the Internet, provide users with fair and open access to networks and can’t discriminate or control the content or applications that we access. This freedom allows us to surf the web freely and to consume and share content.
However, without Net Neutrality, things would change significantly. When discussions began about a vote to repeal Net Neutrality, nationwide debates and protesting ensured. People took to the streets and burst into print to share their passionate views on protecting and defending Net Neutrality. But unfortunately, yesterday, those ended in a disappointing result when the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) voted to repeal Net Neutrality laws.
What does Net Neutrality mean to you as a developer?
Expanding on the above, Treehouse teacher and developer, Nick Pettit explains some of the unique ways Net Neutrality positively enhances your experience as a developer:
“The Internet started on a foundation of free and open exchange. You can optimize your code and your server infrastructure to maximize your website’s availability, but nobody is able to pay for a “fast lane” that favors one website over another. Your first HTML webpage on a shared host has, by United States federal law, the same neutral traffic priority as Netflix. This encourages meaningful competition – a meritocracy – and allows innovation in areas that need it. Newcomers and the establishment are on the same playing field, at least as far as the delivery mechanism is concerned. It’s organic, chaotic, and beautiful.
Repealing net neutrality laws will destroy the Internet and shred the fabric of our society. Without net neutrality, the companies with the most money will be allowed to pay for their web traffic to be prioritized. Internet service providers will split websites into tiered groups, similar to cable packages, and force consumers to choose which websites they want to access quickly. Some websites might even be blocked completely. Removing net neutrality will strengthen monopolies, reward censorship, destroy diversity, and magnify the wealth gap. This will hold back the development of humanity beyond measure.”
“Removing net neutrality will strengthen monopolies, reward censorship, destroy diversity, and magnify the wealth gap.”
The outcome of the December 14th vote
Net Neutrality has been in jeopardy for years, but in 2015 after multiple failed attempts, the FCC stepped up and voted to establish and implement new laws, the Title II rules to protect and maintain the free and open internet. Unfortunately, on December 14th, 2017, the FCC voted to repeal those Net Neutrality laws put in place two years ago, and this time the result was disconcerting. With the 3-to-2 vote in favor of dismantling those valuable laws, ultimately, the internet as we know it could be over.
Changes won’t be immediate, it should take months for the impact to take effect, and it’s hard to predict how those changes will evolve over time. However, the reality is that without the Net Neutrality laws, the imbalance of power to ISPs has begun, and there’s the potential that soon they could control what we’re able to see and do on the internet.
There is still the opportunity for Congress to reverse the FCC vote. So what can you do to help? Check out campaigns like Battle for the Net for updates and actions you can take.