Net neutrality? What is it, and should I care?

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Net neutrality? What is it, and should I care?

You might have seen the term “Net Neutrality” floating around. You probably know it has something to do with your internet connection, and maybe saw that it was important enough for the American president to address it. But if you ever wanted to know just exactly what net neutrality is, and how it affects you, we’ve got the details right here.

A user accesses a popular video streaming site on a laptop.

What is “Net neutrality”?

Simply put, net neutrality describes the idea that your ISP (like us at Start) should treat all of your internet traffic the same way.

What do you mean “the same way”?

For example, let’s say you switch between Netflix and Shomi often to see what’s on. Supporters of net neutrality say that your ISP should not be able to charge either Netflix or Shomi (or any other company) for a faster connection to you so you can have a better experience on either service. Additionally, an ISP shouldn’t be able to charge you, the consumer more money to access certain services.

Ok, sounds fair enough, so why the debate?

As it turns out, some fierce debate was recently ignited when it came to light that Netflix signed a deal with American ISPs Comcast and Verizon to increase the speed (and quality) of their streaming video on both providers’ networks. This precedent could mean that huge companies like Netflix can pay for a better user experience. These types of deals would shut out smaller competitors who can’t afford to pay, and would stack the deck against any company trying to challenge incumbents.

This type of “paid prioritization” essentially segregates the internet into “fast lanes” and “slow lanes”. Instead of getting a reliable internet connection, consumers will now have to worry about poor performance from one ISP v.s. another because of special deals these ISPs may have with popular websites - a result that’s certainly bad for consumers and competition.

So what now?

Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that broadband providers must treat all content equally instead of creating “fast lanes” for content providers willing to pay extra.

This decision is a massive win for consumers, and at the same time sends a strong message to Canada because the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is reviewing net neutrality rules right now as part of a public hearing on new pricing tactics by certain providers

As the Canadian telecom landscape continues to evolve, it is important for all internet users to understand these types of changes, which could affect everyone.

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