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Canada Upholds Net Neutrality

| by Simone Stover
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A ruling has just been made in Canada which contributes to upholding the principle of net neutrality within the country.

Merriam-Webster defines "net neutrality" as "the idea, principle, or requirement that Internet service providers [ISPs] should or must treat all Internet data as the same regardless of its kind, source, or destination." This means that ISPs cannot make it easier or harder for their customers to access specific websites or content.

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For example, according to Public Knowledge, in a world without net neutrality, wealthier companies like Google could potentially pay ISPs to make access to their sites faster and more reliable than others. In addition, ISPs could limit the availability of content from competing companies. 

Another aspect of net neutrality is the idea of "zero-rating." According to Motherboard, zero-rating -- which is also known as differential pricing -- is when an ISP shows preferential treatment to a content creator by allowing customers to use that creator's services without cutting into their data plan. For example, if an ISP allowed customers to stream YouTube videos and did not count the streaming toward those customers' data usage, it would be considered zero-rating and would violate the concept of net neutrality.

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On April 20, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Canada's federal telecom regulator, seemed to take a stand on the concept of net neutrality, reports Motherboard. 

"The [CRTC] today strengthened its commitment to net neutrality by declaring that Internet service providers should treat data traffic equally to foster consumer choice, innovation and the free exchange of ideas," the commission said in a news release on the Government of Canada's website. "As such, the CRTC today is publishing a new framework regarding differential pricing practices."

The CRTC also made a ruling which works against the idea of zero-rating. According to Motherboard, a Quebec-based provider called Videotron launched an unlimited music streaming service in 2015, which allows customers to stream music from certain apps without an impact on their data plan. On April 20, the CRTC ordered Videotron to "bring itself into compliance" with net neutrality laws, meaning that the company will no longer be able to allow customers to stream music without an impact on their data. 

Within the United States, however, the status of net neutrality is uncertain. In 2015, the administration of former President Barack Obama set forth rules upholding the principles of net neutrality, which were approved by the Federal Communications Commission. According to The New York Times, the rules were meant to promote the open internet and prevent content creators from being able to pay to have their content more efficiently delivered. 

President Donald Trump's administration, however, seems to be looking to do away with such rules. When speaking about the Obama-era rules during a press briefing on March 30, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Trump "pledged to reverse this type of federal overreach in which bureaucrats in Washington take the interests of one group of companies over the interests of others, picking winners and losers."

Sources: Merriam-WebsterMotherboard, Government of Canada (2), The New York Times, Public Knowledge, The White House / Photo credit: electricnude/Flickr

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