The FCC Proposes to End Net Neutrality

This week’s web performance news hits close to home for performance engineers. The concept of “the end of net neutrality” leaked a couple weeks ago and the public response was very strong. Learn more about what net neutrality means to you from our blog post last week. Last Thursday (5/15) the FCC voted on a proposal that will allow internet “fast lanes” for companies willing and able to pay for them. The proposal was accepted by a 3-2 majority vote. The vote was divided down party lines with the 3 democratic commissioners voting for the proposal and the 2 republican commissioners voting against. The FCC will now be taking comments from the public before a final vote on the proposal takes place in July. Read on for an editorial of my opinion of why we all need to rally together and fight this proposal and protect net neutrality:

What is Net Neutrality?

The principle of net neutrality is that all internet content should be treated equally by internet service providers. The implementation of an open environment and the free exchange of information between people is regarded as sacred and if this proposal were enacted, internet service providers would be able to give some content and websites preferential treatment.

The Plans

The proposal made by Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the FCC, moves to allow internet service providers (Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon) to offer “fast lanes” to companies who pay for them. Many argue that allowing the ISP’s to determine which sites and content are seen at what speed could lead to both censorship and monopolization of the internet. Censorship is a possible outcome of the proposal as ISP’s will have the legal ability to give some content faster speeds than others. Additionally, an ISP could prevent controversial content from reaching a large audience by denying it access to the “fast lanes”. A form of monopolization could occur as large corporations are able to afford the fast highways while small businesses and start ups are left with just the bumpy back roads. These small businesses have the slowest (and therefore poorer performing) websites and will easily be squelched by large corporations who can afford to pay for the “fast lanes.”

How will this affect load and performance testing?

Optimization requires understanding what you’re changing and why, as well as knowledge of useful testing tools and metrics that matter. Each website contains a different framework and serves a different purpose. The innovation and research into the neuroscience of attaining great performance will lose it’s relevance and the progress that has been made will come to a standstill. The piece of web development that is affected by this proposal is how the ISP’s handle the delivery of information to the end users, which is really a critical portion of web development.

For example, if two companies have the same good infrastructure and back-end performance, and Company A can afford to pay for the “fast lane,” its end users will continue to see excellent web performance. However, if Company B cannot or will not pay the ISP’s for the “fast lane,” its end users will see markedly decreased web performance. Therefore, prepare as you might, developing a truly stellar web application will lose its value to large corporations who are able to afford to pay the ISP’s for preferred service.

Quality development and internet competition is at risk. A popular example of the importance of equal internet opportunity is the replacement of MySpace with Facebook. This change would most likely not have been possible without net neutrality as Facebook would not have been able to compete financially. Likewise, new e-commerce sites or social media platforms will not stand a competitive chance, regardless of the benefits they may bring to market.

What can you do?

Nearly 75,000 people have petitioned the White House to protect and maintain net neutrality. You can sign it here now. In addition, the FCC has offered an email address for people to voice their thoughts on the neutrality plans. Please take a minute to email openinternet@fcc.gov, which has been set up by the FCC to take public comments on this issue. We want to know what you think about net neutrality too! Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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