The Federal Communications Commission in the US has officially voted to dismantle net neutrality within the country, granting broadband providers freedom over how easily their customers can access certain content.
The upheaval of net neutrality throws up new and interesting questions about the state of democracy within the US, and even more questions about how the rest of the world will be affected by the news. Will businesses in the UK be affected, for example? And how likely is it that other nations will follow in the footsteps of the United States?
What is Net Neutrality?
Net neutrality is, put simply, the notion that internet service providers must treat all online data equally. It means that users will be able to access an article on, say, a popular news website just as easily as an article on a lesser-known site. Indeed, it also means that internet service providers have no say over whether a website is blocked or if its delivery is significantly slowed down.
The scrapping of net neutrality has important ramifications for businesses within the US, therefore. For example, if an internet service provider identifies a competitor or a subsidiary of one of its competitors online, it now has the power to hinder access to the website or make users pay extra for access. Proponents of getting rid of net neutrality believe that the new laws will create a competitive environment that will engender increased innovation within the market.
How will the New Online Environment in the US Affect UK Business?
There are no plans to get rid of net neutrality within the UK or other countries in Europe, and it seems very unlikely that this will change any time soon. However, it is important to remember how important the US is on the global market, and that the new rules will affect multinational companies. Indeed, such companies will be working under a new and more competitive environment that is likely to affect their company philosophies and values.
The US and Europe have very different outlooks and approaches to digital rights, and this change in law makes this increasingly clear. There has been much protest across the pond by those worried about how a state without net neutrality can operate in line with the spirit of democracy. This spirit of protest is unlikely to settle down easily, so it is almost inevitable that businesses in the US and multinational corporations will be working in an unstable environment for the foreseeable future.
Will Brexit have an Impact at all?
The UK’s net neutrality laws are currently set out by the European Union, which is said to have one of the most stringent approaches to net neutrality in the world. In this way, the UK will not be able to change its laws until after the Great Repeal Bill is passed. Even then, it is unlikely that much will change. Of course, the UK will have to set out its laws for net neutrality as part of the Brexit process, but as a country fairly committed to digital access and rights, it is very unlikely that much will change.