Net Neutrality...it's an important topic and today you may notice some of your most visited websites are looking a little different (especially if you're reading this from the U.S.).
Some of the world's biggest websites are today protesting the proposed changes to American legislation regarding the way the internet is delivered to you. Facebook, Netflix, Spotify and many more are all displaying banners, reformatting their websites and linking to the Internet Association website in order to raise awareness about the changes America's Federal Communication Commission (FCC) are looking to make.
Barack Obama passed laws during his administration that prohibited internet service providers (ISPs) from altering the way your internet connection performed based upon the content you were consuming. It is these laws the FCC are hoping to repeal. This would have a huge, negative impact on the way the internet works and could ultimately control the content that Americans are able to access. Just consider the implications of this with a certain head of state and his propensity to rebuke against any negative press calling it 'fake news'. Side note : this very same head of state referred to the laws as "Obama's attack on the internet" but surely the true attack on the internet is this very attempt to repeal the laws.
So if the FCC repeals these laws your favourite content could be hosted on a website that has its bandwidth choked by ISPs in order to stop information spreading or worse, to bully website owners into paying huge fees in order to escape what is being referred to as the slow lane. Reddit for instance could see its bandwidth reduced to cripplingly slow speeds due to the fact that it is a social news aggregation website meaning that anyone can share any news to any number of subreddits. Many Redditors are involved in the campaign for net neutrality, privacy and even have been involved in a campaign to 'restore truthiness' and such, if the laws are repealed these subreddits (or even the whole site) could be penalised by ISPs or the government for sharing content that is essentially deemed worthy of censorship.
The image below (produced by OPEN Media) has taken Tim Wu's metaphor to clarify the issue using the greatest of foods...pizza.
Here in the EU, we actually are protected for the time being thanks to guidelines published last year. Certain services are provided priority over others including voice calls and emergency services but ISPs are not able to alter bandwidth based on your content consumption habits.
This doesn't excuse us from getting involved in the conversation. You can educate yourselves further by looking at the Open Media letter to the FCC here and diving into their sources in their footnotes. You can even sign the letter if you like. No matter where you are from. Or check out BattleForTheNet and sign their letter. It is a matter of importance that we keep the internet neutral. Even Stephen Fry is getting involved in the conversation.