A person holding a sign that says "Democracy depends on equal access to information for all"
Picture from the December 2017 Boston Net Neutrality Rally. Photo Credit: Tim Carter

U.S. Federal Communications Commissars say ‘neyt’ to net neutrality.

The Internet has faced many threats. Dictatorships building cyber walls, a hostile takeover bid by the International Telecommunications Union and states and companies trying to block websites, but last night the U.S. Federal Communications Commission repealed U.S. net neutrality rules. Could this be the biggest threat to the Net?

By scrapping net neutrality companies would be able to block, slow, or provide fast lanes to particular websites or services. Net neutrality is critically important. The Internet was designed, built and operates on the principle that information is treated equally. Removing it risks damaging the Internet and seeing fewer choices and increasing costs for Internet users. It’s fundamentally anti-competitive and will see those websites who can afford it benefit from fast-lanes and those who can’t, risk being blocked and slowed down.

It’s a bad day for the Internet but have no fear – this battle isn’t lost, we have time. Rules still have to be made to implement the decision, it will inevitably head to the courts and ultimately Congress can legislate for it.

What happens in the U.S and globally for Internet regulation affects us, but that doesn’t stop New Zealand adopting our own net neutrality rules. When you have media companies branching out and becoming ISPs, telecommunication providers running streaming services and offering ‘special datapack deals for special sites’ and TV providers going to court to demand ISPs block websites, you know it’s definitely time.

In 2014 I wrote the first legislative proposal to include net neutrality in our laws and think it’s high time we stopped talking about and starting enshrining it in law. I’m urging new minister Clare Curran to restart official work on net neutrality and protect our Internet.