What Net Neutrality Means For You

February 6, 2018



Neutrality’s Connection to the Cloud

Net neutrality has gained recognition and caused quite the controversy in recent news.  Even among the internet policy community, the question regarding how to categorize the internet remains unanswered.  It is unclear whether the internet should be considered a public utility or a telecommunications service.  Before the Federal Communications Commission voted to refile the internet as telecommunications, all websites were to be treated equally by internet providers.  With this requalification, the laissez-faire operation of the internet is subject to change.

The controversy surrounding the idea of repealing net neutrality comes from the uncertainty people have towards how the internet service providers (ISPs) are going to take advantage of this newfound freedom.  With this new lack of internet regulation, ISPs now have the opportunity to grow their revenue by favoring their own content regardless of what their users are trying to access.

So, how would it work?  Right now, net neutrality regulates the ISPs and not the websites.  The Federal Communications Commission provides guidelines against favoring any of an ISPs subsidiaries or partners.  These web guidelines are supposed to offer fair representation of data when requested via a search.  If net neutrality is repealed, any business that doesn’t have a working relationship with an ISP will be placed lower in the search results in favor of those paying for better representation (i.e. AT&T providing DirecTV Now, over Netflix when searching for a streaming service).

Service providers say they won’t do this, but if they break their promise, there won’t be any need to rebuke them since no rules will have been broken. 

The problem arising from this isn’t only about prioritization of businesses but in regulating accessibility through packages that consist of different speeds of internet, which as a result, is essentially paying to throttle someone else’s internet.  The bandwidth remains the same, but the data cap available to each individual will change based on differently priced packages.  These packages will affect the speed of a user’s bandwidth and can eventually affect what websites and services are accessible.

Some critics of repealing net neutrality point out that it has the potential to infringe on citizens’ 1st Amendment rights.  Having to pay for specific access to social media websites stops people from speaking their opinions at will and, in addition, mitigates the range that smaller or more controversial businesses can reach.  With the repeal of net neutrality, many fear being looked over because of bigger companies being able to pay ISPs, directly, to procure more traffic to their sites. 

What does all this mean for the cloud?

The cloud saves all of its information to the internet instead of a computer’s physical hard drive.  Access to the cloud is dependent on the ability to connect to the internet, so if lower speeds occur in connectivity, accessibility suffers. Cloud services often have a direct line to a service provider to avoid such connectivity issues, granting them quicker and steadier access. 

If ISPs control how well the cloud works in terms of access, speed, and latency, they control the future of the cloud.  Former FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, has stated that being able to access the cloud “free of gatekeepers is essential.”  Many broadband providers have promised not to throttle connection to the cloud, but without an oversight committee they have the freedom to do exactly that.  Accessing Agency Matrix insurance company software has always been as easy as having an internet connection, and that will remain true whatever is decided in regards to net neutrality. 

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