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Net Neutrality and why we need to get louder about it

by Michael Gibbons


Net Neutrality is a term you will have heard of a lot over the past couple of months if you follow American politics. For the last few years America has been embroiled in a heated debate which has united both activists and corporations alike. For those unaware with the concept of Net Neutrality or just want brief refresh then watch this John Oliver video which explains the situation across the pond much better than I can.


The basic concept is that all data must be treated the same. ISPs can’t slow down or charge more for you to access the data you want. It ensures that a small start up with a better product than established competitors can compete on the same level. It’s how Facebook overtook Myspace and Netflix overtook Blockbuster and so on. It’s the same in politics where one party has the same opportunity to get its message across the internet as the rest of the parties do. In the long run we get a more competitive market, competitive prices and better services you the end user (you).
You would be forgiven for thinking that this is just isn’t an issue in the UK or Europe for that matter. Currently Net Neutrality is protected under EU Law but it is still very flawed. Make no mistake however, it’s good and better than nothing but it could be massively improved. In 2015 the EU, like the US, decided to allow for a two-tier system. This allows ISPs to prioritise certain data. For example, Virgin Mobile doesn’t charge users for Twitter, Facebook or WhatsApp for messaging purposes. This may seem great but in the long run it’s much harder for a newer product to compete so the market saturates and eventually gets stale.  
The second issue to screw net neutrality in the near future happens to be the almost inevitable Brexit effect. The European Withdrawal Bill, according to the UK Government, will allow Parliament to “amend, repeal and improve" any European legislation as they see fit. Meaning they could keep, weaken or strengthen net neutrality resolutions in a matter of under reported votes. It’s this primary issue which all Internet stakeholders should be at least as slightly concerned as I am. The internet is an amazingly excellent invention and possibly the single greatest invention made by the very best of humanity in the last fifty years. It’s shaped almost every aspect of our modern life, economy, politics and society. 
Reading up on this issue and the European debate I was relieved to see SNP MEP’s Ian Hudgeton and Alyn Smith as well as other progressive MEPs advocate for an amendment to the package which would halt the two-tier system and ensure net neutrality is protected for all internet users. Brexit is such as huge issue that we often get distracted by one thing the government does that three more things slip though the cracks. It’s time we remind ourselves of the consequences of voting Conservative and for Brexit.