Net neutrality is currently in place, for the most part, in Europe. This ensures that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) do not limit access to certain sites, or partition the internet and charge extra for full access. It also guarantees that small businesses can be found online by their customers.
Some say net neutrality is essential to protecting people’s fundamental rights online, while others claim it prevents technological progress.
In the second of a two-part series, we’ll provide you with expert insight on:
- The status of net neutrality be in a post-Brexit UK.
- The ongoing net neutrality battle in the US and its possible impact on UK internet users.
- 5G’s impact on net neutrality.
- Carrier-neutral data centres.
- What you can do to protect your business against net neutrality repeal.
To learn more about the basics of net neutrality and its current state read part one of our series.
Net Neutrality in the UK Post-Brexit
Exiting the EU doesn’t mean the immediate scrapping of net neutrality in the UK. For all the competing opinions regarding Brexit, there is nothing to suggest that net neutrality is at inherent risk due to Brexit.
In fact, in October 2018, the government introduced the Open Internet Access (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 as per the EU Withdrawal Act 2018. These regulations expressly provide for continuity with net neutrality requirements throughout the Brexit process.
Secondly, the UK has so far been among the most stringent enforcers of net neutrality among EU states. It has levied some of the highest fines in the EU, up to millions of pounds.
Furthermore, even if the UK did scrap net neutrality, there is another important factor to consider: the UK’s ISP market is fiercely competitive, which might shield online businesses and corporate users from price hikes.
However, it could be counter-argued that ceasing net neutrality would raise prices far higher since ISPs would no longer have to bother with the price-suppressing factors of net neutrality. They also might all commit to repealing net neutrality, remaining competitive in comparison to one another, but raising costs significantly.
The American Angle
Net neutrality has been a hot potato political and legal issue in the US for some years now. US net neutrality became law under the 2010 Open Internet Order issued by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). The Obama administration further committed to net neutrality in 2015.
In 2017, the Trump administration retracted many of the provisions that had previously ensured net neutrality in the US. The FCC now advocated for ISPs to be free to bottleneck access to users and charge higher prices for certain access.
The result was a court battle that culminated in an October 2019 decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in favour of the FCC/Trump administration.
Looking at America is important since UK businesses could be inadvertently ‘held hostage’ to higher internet costs if American ISPs were allowed to undertake a ‘tiered’ internet, and accessing the substantial American market could become very difficult.
The Elephant in the Room - 5G
5G is the fifth generation of data networks, and with technological advancements it could be around 100 times faster than 4G
5G could bring about a new age of connectivity, which is why telecom giants Vodafone and AT&T strongly argued for loosening existing net neutrality rules at the 2019 Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Paris. They claimed it would make 5G more economically viable.
If allowed, this would usher in a two-tiered internet system built on a ‘sliced up’ 5G network. Maintaining net neutrality within other networks would be almost impossible if this happened.
Carrier-Neutral Data Centres - Opportunities & Challenges
A carrier-neutral data centre is a facility that is entirely independent of ISPs by offering clients a wide variety of connection options. There are many advantages that come from using a data centre, one of which is ‘ISP agility’ which allows them to avoid higher costs by keeping ISPs in fierce competition with one another.
Data centre use has increased in recent history thanks to these lower connection costs, as well as other advantages like power-supply redundancies and cheaper costs than running servers in-house. If the UK does repeal net neutrality, data centre use might explode since their ‘ISP agility’ would be more critical than ever.
If you want to learn more about what net neutrality is and its current status in the UK, read part one of our series on net neutrality.
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A Worst-Case Scenario?
The worst-case scenario for most UK businesses would be the entire repeal of net neutrality. Online access costs would almost certainly rise, and online viability itself could be in question for some companies.
To protect your company, we suggest the following:
- Optimisation of your website’s back-end and front-end data is imperative.
- Diversify your company’s entire internet connection where possible. Data centres are useful for this.
- Be proactive about your understanding of net neutrality trends.
- Keep online access labelled as a risk factor for your company, regardless of its size.
4D is available to help with every aspect of your company’s IT now and post Brexit. You can check out some of our services or get in touch to talk to one of our experts.