Net neutrality for startups is a very important equality metric that not only impacts the tech startups, but also the brick and mortar ones.
The concept of net neutrality is not only political and legal, but it is also technological. The fact that all of us are equal and treated equally when sending an HTTP request over the network, is a big deal and is one of the core foundations of the digital world of today.
What is net neutrality?
In layman’s terms, net neutrality means: Big ISP’s should treat all internet traffic the same, regardless of the source.
e.g. Let’s say that Vodafone(in Europe) or Comcast(in the USA) is your internet service provider and they have a competing product with another company (like A video streaming service for example) and they prioritize their product as opposed to letting it run through a free market. Similar to how google ranking is done through the Google search engine.
How does it impact us?
Simply put, the lack of net neutrality enables ISPs to control the data flown through them based on their own needs. The application-agnosticism that is expected of them is out of the question and transforms it into a business decision.
What can we do?
Let me tackle the two main groups that we are aware of: the US and Europe.
Net neutrality in the EU is regulated by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC). An EU entity that controls the rulesets of how ISP in the EU should behave.
You can read more about it here https://berec.europa.eu/eng/open_internet/ but here are the rules:
Under the EU rules, ISPs are prohibited from blocking or slowing down of internet traffic, except where necessary.
The exceptions are limited to: traffic management to comply with a legal order, to ensure network integrity and security, and to manage exceptional or temporary network congestion, provided that equivalent categories of traffic are treated equally.
BEREC Open internet rules https://berec.europa.eu/eng/open_internet/
In the USA, net neutrality is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Here are the rules:
Blocking: Broadband providers may not block access to lawful content, applications, services or non-harmful devices.
Throttling: Broadband providers may not deliberately target some lawful internet traffic to be delivered to users more slowly than other traffic.
Paid prioritization: Broadband providers may not favor some internet traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind. ISPs are also banned from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates.
FCC consumer guide https://transition.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/openinternet.pdf
UPDATE 2022: US being the US, this gets complicated where big ISPs have challenged the FCC’s regulation on Open Internet. Their challenge though was declined by the court.