Hey, remember net neutrality? Yeah, it’s still a problem. And yeah, your Internet in the US might not be so free in the future. Now, the creator of the world wide web himself has stepped in.
In a post on Twitter, the UK’s Tim Berners-Lee made an impassioned plea for net neutrality, highlighting an upcoming vote in Congress that could decide the future of the Internet in the US.
“I invented the web as an open, permissionless space for everyone,” he wrote. “The FCC’s repeal of Net Neutrality threatens to take that away. Tell the Senate they must protect net neutrality to keep the web open.”
In December 2017, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) voted to repeal laws on net neutrality that had been put in place by President Obama. The move was pretty widely regarded as being terrible, with FCC chairman Ajit Pai being singled out in particular for vitriol.
That’s because getting rid of net neutrality is really, really terrible. Net neutrality means that Internet service providers (ISPs) and government agencies must keep all websites treated equally. This means that websites are given the same bandwidth allocation and load at the same speed.
Without net neutrality, ISPs will be free to throttle Internet traffic. This means that a company could pay to have its site load faster than others, and you may even have to pay a premium subscription to access certain sites. Essentially, the Internet would become a tiered “Internet of things”. It would suck.
It all looked pretty terrible after the vote was ratified earlier this year. But now Democratic Senators have forced a vote on net neutrality, in an effort to bring back the Obama-era rules. Under the Congressional Review Act, they’re hoping to roll back the regulations before they are introduced.
It needs a majority in the Senate to pass, and at the moment it looks like it might get that. However, it will also need to pass the House of Representatives and then be signed by Trump. Considering that Trump put Pai forward in the first place, that doesn’t look too likely.
Even with the plea of Berners-Lee, net neutrality is starting to look pretty dire in the US. Thankfully, at the moment that same sentiment doesn’t seem to have spread elsewhere, with Europe for example still in favor of a free and open Internet.
If you want to make your voice heard in the US, you can contact your lawmakers to ask them to vote for the CRA and restore net neutrality. We can but dream that net neutrality isn’t dead just yet.