For those that have not come across the notion of Net Neutrality, it is important to not just know what it is, but far more importantly know its real world impact. Even if this does not affect you directly, knowing that it could affect someone you meet, I promise you, is worth your attention.
Net neutrality is the idea that a user of the internet can get access to the web equally; essentially there is no bias on which websites you can visit.
So how is this potentially changing?
It is worth highlighting that the UK is not immediately at risk of restricting internet access. Last summer strict EU law was put in place. However, with the UK’s imminent departure from the EU there are no guarantees that this law will indefinitely remain. Many businesses voted to leave as they believed EU bureaucracy restricted their operations and therefore it is fair to say that Net Neutrality is far from certain.
We all access the internet through Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as BT, Sky, Virgin etc and this also includes your mobile phone providers. Currently there are laws protecting Net Neutrality but in the same way your TV provider can give you a variety of TV packages depending on your monthly bill – ISPs have been investigating restricting the web according to your monthly bill.
Of all the recent referendums, elections and polls, the most worrying result for me was when Collider Tweeted out a poll to whether user would rather pay less for restricted access to the web, and over 50% replied yes.
On face value, this might seem ideal for those of us who are “just about managing”. However, I believe this to be a very slippery slope. If 50%+ of the population only had access to particular websites decided to by your ISP, just imagine what websites you might have access to and which ones would be forbidden? For example, a Sky customer might only consume their knowledge from websites on the world wide web that have been decided on by employees of Rupert Murdoc.
Likewise, the model has been rumoured to include websites that have paid the ISP to be part of their lowest (or even free) internet package. If a Gas and Electricity provider was the only provider to be viewed online by 10 million plus UK residents, how much would that be worth to them and how much more difficult for you to find the best deal in your area?
The web is full of less than truthful sites and utter poppycock, but without the experience of recognising and understanding what these sites are like, how would the next generation critically view what they read online?
Going back to my promise that this was a worthwhile read, if you do not want to sit next to a person on the train talking on their phone, or have a conversation in a pub, with an individual that takes everything they have been purposely fed online at face value by multi billion pound corporations with political agendas then please be aware and support Net Neutrality.
The above is a worst case scenario, and I am aware Rupert Murdoch is no longer Sky’s CEO, however the threat for small businesses that rely on the web to suddenly lose its audience, and for neutral education to be only provided to the highest bidder, is well worth the attention of those who currently benefit from such a system.