Net neutrality is a touchy subject for those of us who understand the impact the internet has on the world around us. As net neutrality comes to a head in the United States, consumers need to understand just what impact this issue has on their daily lives. Whether you game online, stream movies or watch TV shows, you may be affected by net neutrality in the coming future. In fact, if you play Pokemon Go, you’re already being affected by net neutrality if you’re a T-Mobile customer. Let’s look at why net neutrality is and why it matters.
More About Net Neutrality
Net neutrality in its simplest definition is the idea that internet service providers (ISPs), governments, and any entity that disperses internet connectivity treat all data the same. This means that they can’t cut off certain services, such as Netflix or games, simply because they take up more bandwidth on a connection than other forms of traffic. Many ISPs, including mobile phone companies, have had issues filtering certain types of traffic, most notably Comcast and Verizon in recent years.
Net Neutrality in the United States
Net neutrality is an issue in the United States that will most likely see a Supreme Court hearing in the next few years. ISPs believe they can, and should be able to, filter traffic as they see fit, especially with the increase in streaming services competing directly with cable providers. Comcast and AT&T, in particular, have been known to throttle connections in streaming-heavy households, leading to a rise in complaints to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over such practices.
ISPs use a variety of means to throttle bandwidth for users, including hardware, software, and firmware updates. They can block applications, content, and even protocols in most households across the country if they choose to do so. They can even choose to block competitors, something Comcast has been criticized for in regards to slowing speeds to Netflix subscribers in certain metroplexes in the US.
In 2015, the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality. It reclassified broadband access as primarily a telecommunications service. This means a different set of rules applies to have ISPs deal with traffic and usage. In retaliation, the United States Telecom Association (USTA) filed a lawsuit against the FCC. They challenged net neutrality, claiming that the FCC is overreaching in how it’s classifying broadband access. In 2016, the US Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC was correct in classifying broadband access as a public utility rather than a luxury as ISPs and mobile phone providers claimed it to be. At this juncture, a Supreme Court battle over net neutrality is expected.
Why Does Net Neutrality Matter?
As more consumers use streaming services in particular, without net neutrality, this means your ISP could essentially say you can’t use Netflix, you can’t play games over the Xbox Live network, or you can’t visit your favorite websites. For example, if your ISP is Comcast and you like to stream TV shows that aren’t included on your cable plan through Hulu, Comcast could say that Hulu is banned on its internet network. Net neutrality proponents want to stop Comcast, and other ISPs, from being able to tell you – the paying customer – how you can use your own internet service.
Net neutrality is a tricky issue for cable and internet providers looking to make money as the way we watch TV and movies changes. It’s only a matter of time before the Supreme Court will have to look at the issues and decide the future of the internet.