As of October 2020, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted to maintain the repeal of the net neutrality rules.
With net neutrality repealed it feels like déjà vu all over again. We’ve watched many fights over the current state of net neutrality on a global scale, we’ve been here before, and still the arguments rumble despite 2020 being the year of the global pandemic.
Why Net Neutrality Concerns us All?
The Net Neutrality repeal will have an insurmountable effect on, not just US consumers, but anyone using the internet on this planet – including all of us here in New Zealand.
Many may argue, but it’s in the United States how should that even concern us?
In fact, the effect of the net neutrality repeal trickles down to many countries with no definite net neutrality policies. It’s a clear message that data network providers can raise prices at will and limit net speeds for certain groups of consumers and services.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net neutrality is about equality where all NZ users should get free access to digital information, no matter the media, tech platform, source or network. Net neutrality is meant to protect the public and prevent large Internet service providers (ISPs) from favoring or filtering access and speed to certain websites or users.
The Threat of Data Caps and Privacy Issues
Many users wouldn’t give a minute to think about net neutrality until they start experiencing data caps. To be clear, a data cap is a network restriction or limit imposed over the transfer of data. That said, data caps are rampant nowadays, giving telcos the power to charge for router fees.
Privacy issues have also come to the surface with mobile carriers brokering the sale of geo–location data of their customers to advertising groups and creditors. With the repeal in place, this means government sentinels like the FCC do not have any control over these maneuvers. And these are just considered minor issues. Many individuals accept that their personal data having been sold is intrinsically linked to services now, with the rise of Google, Facebook and others business models being us as users being the product.
Net Neutrality in New Zealand
Like most of the world, people all over New Zealand (NZ) should want a fair and free Internet. The limit and flow of information should make us all the more anxious. Imagine a world where your internet service provider can all but determine which streaming device you use, through arbitrary caps on those it may not work with – or own themselves.
Net Neutrality Repeal is a threat to both privacy and public safety. We don’t want telecom corporations as the digital gatekeepers, stifling the growth of innovation, information, and creativity. We want definitive Net Neutrality NZ laws in place that have the good of the public in mind.
Some New Zealand telecommunications companies have even started early, challenging the state of net neutrality by offering consumer data “add-ons”. Making the choice for you on the price of web access whether its data, streaming video, playlist, and downloads. Think about it – do you have faster access to the sites you want? Or just on sites that they have on offer as a better deal? Imagine paying hefty fines for binging on your favorite TV shows on Disney+, Netflix or Neon?
That’s not a good outcome for Net Neutrality NZ.
What’s stopping local providers like 2degrees, Spark, and Vodafone from controlling net speed and traffic, and even choosing favourites? For now, there are no specific net neutrality regulations in NZ.
Just to reiterate, Net Neutrality in New Zealand is still a grey zone and has been for years with restrictions only limited to the blocking of illegal material.
The Road Ahead on Net Neutrality NZ
For now, it’s still a wait-and-see situation at best, with the global pandemic forestalling most legislative activities, and with changes to the US administration, we can expect major changes in the FCC and how will move forward with net neutrality. Hopefully, the solutions they’ll come up with will restore net neutrality protections for the better, and the whole world can follow suit.