Should telecommunications companies in the United States offer Internet with equal access for all?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) votes this Thursday if it reverts the regulations that protect the so-called “net neutrality” by treating providers as strictly regulated public services.
This within the framework of legislation passed in 2015 under the government of former President Barack Obama.
The FCC is now controlled by the ruling Republican Party, which since Donald Trump took office in January this year has proposed ending these regulations, says BBC technology correspondent Dave Lee.
The possible end of net neutrality has provoked criticism and protests from activists opposed to the Trump government and technological giants such as Apple and Facebook.
“This week may be crucial in the history of the internet,” Lee says in reference to the controversial vote of the US regulator.
What is the neutrality of the internet?
The current laws in the United States establish that Internet service providers (ISPs) must provide users with equal access to all (legal) content, regardless of the source.
Therefore, all data and information must be provided at the same level and telecommunications companies can not block content or reduce the speed of certain Internet traffic.
Without basic protections of internet neutrality services such as Skype and Netflix would have had an early death “.
Tim Wu, a law professor who coined the term “internet neutrality”
Nor can they give preferential treatment to their own content to disadvantage their competitors.
Law professor Tim Wu, who coined the term in 2002, said in a column published almost a month ago in The New York Times that “without basic protections of internet neutrality services such as Skype and Netflix would have had an early death ”
What is the impact of eliminating it?
Without laws to protect these principles, activists in favor of internet neutrality argue that ISPs would have free rein to exploit new powers by limiting certain types of Internet traffic, says Lee.
“For example, an ISP could decide if it charges extra for the use of a service such as Netflix or if it gives an advantage to a company by not counting the use of certain services when it charges bandwidth data to its users,” he says. journalist.
Lee clarifies that these scenarios are hypothetical, because so far have been prohibited by law.
“The ISPs could create a special fast track for content providers who want to pay more,” Corey Price, vice president of porn streaming platform PornHub told the News Pressed last July.
“That means that streaming (retransmission or downloading of data) can be slower, especially with regard to pornography on the internet, which can be as problematic as you can imagine,” he added.
According to the analysts, ending the regulations would imply a victory for the big telecommunications companies, which would have more freedom and power in their operations.
Some companies, however, have said that they will not take advantage of a change in regulations to start charging content providers for access to consumers.
On the company’s Comcast blog, one of its managers wrote in mid-November: “Comcast has made internet neutrality a promise to our customers and we will continue to follow those standards, regardless of the regulations that are in effect.”
What do those who want to eliminate it say?
Those who advocate the end of internet neutrality argue that it unduly restricts the business world and that it is necessary to update the legislation.
The main champion of the change is the director of the FCC, Ajit Pai, who was appointed by President Trump.
According to Pai, the regulations of the Obama era have done nothing but “depress investment in the construction and expansion of broadband networks, and discourage innovation.”
The regulator has argued in previous months that the possible impact of a deregulation “has been exaggerated” and that this would help to improve competition and remove government interference in the use of the internet.
In a move designed to dispel fears of possible foul play, adds Dave Lee, the FCC and the US Federal Trade Commission. (FTC, for its acronym in English) announced last Monday a joint collaboration to suppress the unfair behavior of telecommunications companies.
Who defend their permanence?
More than 180 technology companies in the country held a protest on the Internet last July called “Day of Action”, which involved giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook.
In mid-November, when the draft FCC was released to propose the changes, hundreds of companies charged again against the initiative.
Facebook said they were “disappointed that the FCC proposal failed to maintain strong protections for internet neutrality that ensure it remains open to all.”
Meanwhile, Netflix wrote on Twitter: “This draft has not been officially voted, so we are opposing it publicly and loudly now.”
In an open letter to the regulator, a group of 1,000 small businesses in the US wrote: “We rely on an open internet, including rules of net neutrality, to ensure that large cable companies can not discriminate against people like us.”
Days before the vote in the FCC, another open letter, this time signed by several pioneers of the network, said that the commission “does not know what it is doing”.
“It is important to understand that the order proposed by the FCC is based on a faulty and objectively inaccurate understanding of internet technology, ” the statement read.
Among the signatories, there are architects of the World Wide Web(www), such as Vint Cerf and Sir Tim Berners-Lee, along with Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple.