The internet is one of the most important technological advancements of the twentieth century. It has enabled a new type of communication that has reinvented our world: From the advent of constantly connected communities like Facebook; to the newest wave of smartphones that put everything from GPS navigation to television in our pockets; to the easy and instantaneous transfer of financial and business data that makes up the backbone of modern commerce. Our lives – personal, professional, or both – have transformed to rely on reliable access to the internet.
The internet is an ecosystem of interconnected computers, which have, for a long time, operated under an important assumption that all computers have equal access to the internet. The massive servers that operate Facebook have no more or less right to the internet’s underlying infrastructure than the system that hosts your website, the PC that you use at home, or even your phone’s ability to post your photos up to your iCloud or videos to YouTube. This principle of equal access is what is referred to as Net Neutrality.
In 2015, the FCC made an important change in the way that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) were regulated. This change was in response to ISPs creating costly bottlenecks for service providers, a practice called “paid prioritization.” Paid prioritization allows ISPs to effectively hold small, internet-dependent businesses hostage, stifling innovation by adding additional costs to developing and deploying new services to consumers. Paid prioritization effectively allows your ISP to govern who and what can afford to be on their internet, rather than allowing free access to the entire internet. The FCC in 2015 decided that this was an unacceptable way to do business, and changed its rules to enforce net neutrality, rather than relying on the ISPs, who demonstrated a willingness to throttle the fair and open internet for commercial gain.
How does this affect us? And how does this affect you?
Tech Lab hosts websites for many of our clients. We provide remote backup service, and support many of our customers through special remote access software. With the lifting of Net Neutrality rules, it may become more costly or even impossible to provide these services, as our ISP will be allowed to charge us a higher cost for our internet services.
Many of our clients also rely on web applications. Cloud storage, client management web applications, and even point of sale software relies on fast, reliable access to the internet, so rescinding Net Neutrality protections means that our ISPs can choose to charge you more for access to these services, if they allow them to function at all. Even our entertainment landscape will be affected, with services like Netflix that might be effectively cut off from large numbers of customers, whose ISPs want to promote their own streaming services (content delivery networks), or those networks who agree to pay their increased prices.
What can we do?
The US Legislature has two avenues to address the issue.
The first is to reject the rules change. Congress has ultimate oversight over the FCC, and if it acts promptly, it can reverse the FCC’s rules change through the Congressional Review Act.
The second is to introduce legislation. Congress can pass a law guaranteeing Net Neutrality, which the FCC will then be obligated to enforce.
As a company, we don’t often feel the need to present our opinion on political issues. However, the issue of net neutrality affects our core business. We also feel that it is important to inform our clients as to how these issues could affect them, their businesses, and the future of their IT environment. The impact of this decision, over the long term, will increase costs while dramatically decreasing the quality of services available over the internet to many of our customers. This affects computer services of every description, on every level, from the home user to to the largest business, desktops to mobile. As your trusted IT professionals, we would be remiss in not explaining the consequences of this to you to the best of our understanding.
Our best recourse at this juncture is to contact our congressmen (Senators and US Representatives) and implore them to take action. Please visit https://whoismyrepresentative.com/ , find your Congressmen, and inform them of the impact eliminating net neutrality will have on your life and your business. Net neutrality is an important regulation that protects individuals’ and businesses’ access to the internet, and should be reinstated as soon as possible to prevent us all from bearing higher costs, or entirely losing services we rely on.