- Everyone is equal online. That has been the starting point of the internet since the early years. The web is a large repository of information and anyone can access everything. Providers are there to give people access to that information, but otherwise they remain impartial. They may not favor one customer on the other customer, as a drinking water company is not allowed to decide who gets which water from the tap.
Net neutrality is called that, but it is under attack. The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decides on its future Thursday. The new CEO, Ajit Pai, is an ally of President Donald Trump and the Republicans have the say in the organization.
If they get their way, providers will be free to decide who can see what. For example, they can decide that their own services can be found better than those of competitors. Another possibility is that a provider asks for money from sites for fast and stable access.
Another option: special subscriptions. For example, a consumer can pay for video services only, such as YouTube and Netflix, or for social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Innovation, find providers. Abuse of power, find opponents.
There is a lot of protest against the plans, including from tech companies such as Apple, Amazon and Netflix. They are afraid that they will be handed over to the wishes of providers. Consumer groups and civil rights movements also want to maintain net neutrality.
The previous governments, and therefore also the FCC, were in favor of net neutrality. Pai therefore fought against the organization, as a lawyer for provider Verizon.
If the FCC indeed abolishes net neutrality, as expected, that is not the end of the discussion. The opponents then almost certainly go to court. There is also a possibility that the decision will be postponed. About twenty states asked for this after the Public Prosecution Service in New York discovered that the FCC had received about two million fake responses to the plans. The content of those reactions is unknown.
For Dutch consumers, the decision of the FCC has no consequences. Net neutrality was included in the law here in 2012. Later there were also European rules.