What Would the Internet Look Like Without Net Neutrality?

Our access to the Internet would change completely.

The debate around net neutrality has been in the news for the past few years. As commonly defined, net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers and governments regulating most of the internet must treat all data on the internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differentially by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication.

In a move celebrated by nobody outside of major telecom companies, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) releases its plan today to gut net neutrality rules put in place during President Barack Obama’s administration. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer, made it official on Tuesday. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Pai announced this move would herald a new era of innovation and investment.

Pai plans to kill Obama administration rules demanding fair treatment of web traffic. But most people in the United States, and other nations where net neutrality has been the norm, don’t have a firm grasp on what the loss of net neutrality would mean for them.

Thanks to net neutrality, internet service providers (ISPs) don’t intentionally slow down or charge specific fees to give web based services an advantage or disadvantage. This levels the playing field for everyone so small internet entities can compete with the big ones for the same customers.

Portugal is one country where there is no net neutrality. And most of the developing world has never had it.

In Portugal, ISPs are starting to split the use of Internet into various “packages” like social, messaging, video, emails and music with an associated separate fee for each one. They give their customers varying levels of access to the internet. If you pay a few euros per month, you get just messaging apps; a bit more, and you can use Facebook or perhaps Netflix.

Portugal net neutrality
Portuguese telecom MEO gives subscription options for specific websites based on type. (Photo credit Twitter)

From the above screenshot, each of these bundles cost about €5 each. If a person wanted to use at least one app from each of the five bundles, they’d pay about €25 (about US $29) monthly to access it. And any app or website that doesn’t have an agreement with an ISP is either inaccessible or drastically slower.

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