What is net neutrality, why is it important and why does it impact your smartphone use? For the most part, consumers are aware that there are many businesses currently supporting net neutrality and that the government may pass measures and regulations that could restrict the neutrality of the internet. But, what does that really mean to you?
What Is Net Neutrality?
Net neutrality simply means that all data on the Internet is treated equally — in other words, treated neutrally. Whether you are streaming a video from Netflix or on a business-related video call through Skype, the data is treated the same by your ISP. That means that all types of data will also operate equally quickly and equally reliably. (Of course, that doesn’t mean that none of your data comes under scrutiny; ISPs can still see what you’re doing and can see what types of connections you’ve made.)
Most people today browse the Internet through their phone. Net neutrality encompasses the entirety of the Internet, so it’s not just your Internet/WiFi connection — it’s also your 3G, 4G, LTE, or other data connection. Without net neutrality, different types of traffic could flow through different types of Internet service.
What Would Be the Impact of Losing Net Neutrality?
Services may begin to cost more.
When you stream Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Video on your phone, you’re streaming it through a neutral Internet service. Without net neutrality, two things could happen: your ISP could charge you more for streaming on these services, and the services themselves could be charged more for sending out streaming data. Ultimately this cost is going to be passed on to consumers.
Widespread censorship could occur.
Without net neutrality, there is nothing stopping ISPs from relegating some content to “low tier” Internet services and other content to “high tier” Internet services. Censorship can occur on a bandwidth level, with sites from certain areas (such as certain countries) or including certain content (such as political content) running much slower.
Monopolies may be developed.
What happens if Walmart creates a deal with ISPs to make their app faster than Amazon? Eventually, you may find yourself only using the Walmart app simply because it’s easier. Without net neutrality, large corporations can negotiate these types of contracts, pushing out their competition.
One confusion is people often talk about being “against net neutrality” when they really mean being for net neutrality. Being for net neutrality means being for a neutral and open Internet. In the case of smartphone users, net neutrality provides equal access to all of a smartphone’s Internet-related capabilities and functionality. Without net neutrality, smartphone users may find themselves paying more from connections or being blocked off from certain connections.