Fibre optics

Why tech professionals should be up in arms over the death of net neutrality

Net Neutrality is dead – and if you work in the tech industry, that’s a bad thing.

Internet providers are no longer classed as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. They are no longer required to treat all Internet traffic and data as equal.

FCC chair Ajit Pai would like everyone to believe that this is nothing to worry about. Small businesses and startups, he claims, will benefit greatly from paid prioritisation of traffic. It does not in any way give large enterprises an undue advantage over their smaller competitors.

You can probably already see the holes in his argument.

And at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, the repeal of net neutrality is only the first step. The FCC has big plans for the Internet, and those plans involve full deregulation of service providers. Should things go as the organisation seems to hope, telecommunications providers will be able to operate completely free of oversight.

If you don’t know why that’s a bad thing for businesses and consumers alike, you simply haven’t been paying attention. The ISP market will become wholly anticompetitive, leading to higher prices, worse service, and bad behaviour by the large organisations that dominate it. Just look at any historical monopoly for evidence of how things might look in this new landscape.

As you may recall, deregulation from 2002 to 2005 was how Comcast – one of America’s most hated companies – was born. With the blind deregulation being put in place by the FCC, we’re probably going to see another Comcast. And don’t dismiss this whole scenario as being irrelevant to your company, either.

Your data center will see a negative impact from this mess – make no mistake. Traffic throttling will present a significant barricade to IoT adoption, stymieing the incredibly-promising changes it brings with it. Not only that, new IoT organisations may be unable to pay the steep fees to get their products off the ground – meaning more innovations left in the dust.

“High-volume internet traffic, such as huge swaths of data collected from IoT sensors, may soon be viewed by corporations as unnecessary strains on their infrastructure,” writes Network World’s Gary Eastwood. “The end result is an unequal playing field which favours those with more money, rather than those with the best applications and ideas. Corporations pick the winners and losers of the internet, and IoT app developers lose their much-needed access to a free and open web.”

Price gouging by carriers is also a major concern. Carriers will be free to charge clients extra for high-bandwidth content. Do you rely on IaaS or PaaS tools for your business? Do you host a database in a colocation facility? Do you own your own data center?

In all the use cases above, you’ll likely end up paying more for the same services you have now – maybe even less.

It’s a grim future, to be certain. But the good news is that the fight for net neutrality isn’t over yet. There’s still a chance something can be done to halt this deregulation, and there are many organisations fighting to do exactly that. For all our sakes, let’s hope they succeed.


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