For tech companies that rely on fast internet speeds and an abundance of bandwidth in order to provide cutting-edge, high quality service, spending a bit of capital for faster service seems a smart plan for staying afloat in a competitive market. Up until now, that’s been allowed, but a recent FCC ruling on Net Neutrality is set to change the game in a very polarizing way. So what does this mean for tech professionals, innovation and consumers?
Right now, the contentious debate from those in favor of and those vehemently against Net Neutrality continues. Prior to the latest FCC ruling, Internet Service Providers have been able to offer companies a faster speed for their content. This speed comes at premium price that many companies are willing to pay, and even rely upon, in order to get priority over the competition.
These so-called “fast lane” arrangements that let big data users get their content to the masses at faster than normal download speeds have been critical for some major tech companies. But they’ve also come under fire from Net Neutrality proponents and some members of FCC itself, who feel broadband companies have too much power to make and bend the rules for profit and pandering to corporate interest.
The central idea behind Net Neutrality is to level the playing field and ensure all data — aside from prioritized info for medical services and other key exemptions — gets broadcasted at the same speed. In February, the FCC voted 3-2 in favor of stricter Net Neutrality regulations, reversing an earlier ruling that once classified the Internet as an information service. This classification covers both mobile and fixed broadband services. Among the major changes to be put in place, the new regulations now classify the Internet as a common carrier or public utility, much like phone services or the post office. As such, it opens the door for ISPs to be regulated, preventing them from blocking access to legal content and artificially throttling bandwidth for certain content or companies. It also does away with “fast-lane” paid prioritization for companies. A big concern that some have over this ruling, is that the added taxation, greater regulation, and evaporation of fast-lane funds will cost major ISPs a lot of money. This additional cost could get passed down to consumers in the form of tacked-on charges or higher monthly fees for their service.
Net Neutrality and the future of tech innovation
Another matter that is highly debated is the possible impact on tech innovation. Proponents say the new measures level the playing field and keep smaller startups that don’t have the capitol for fast-lane deals from being at a disadvantage. Opponents say it instead inhibits larger companies from staying competitive and impedes innovation.
Finalize changes are still in a state of limbo while both sides dig in their heels. Many, though not all, ISPs aren’t happy about the ruling, and a lawsuit has already been filed on their behalf against the FCC to overturn the new regulations. There are also rumblings from Congress itself, which could step in and take action. Stay tuned, as this won’t be the last you’ll hear on the subject in the months to come.
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