A regular issue for users of the internet is how the major delivery companies deal with the quantity of data and download activity that they consume. There has been action taken by regulators in both Canada and the US to attempt to keep the access to internet sites as neutral as possible.
What is net neutrality?
Wikipedia defines it as: "Net neutrality (also network neutrality, Internet neutrality, or net equality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication."
In both Canada and the US there have been attempts by major players in the industry (usually the big telecoms or cable companies) to control the ability to download information from the internet in ways which can advantage the host's business.
In cases before the CRTC (Canada's regulator) major internet providers were restricted from providing a pricing structure which favoured their own apps at the expense of other internet sites. What had been planned was to provide a TV service over the Bell mobile system which included an advantagious data transfer rate which is not available for downloading other services like Netflix. Videotron had proposed a similar system for its subscribers as well. The CRTC has said such a plan as these, while innovative on the surface would "step(s) on the toes of the principle of fair and open access to content."
In the US the FCC (US regulator) also issued directives which would stop a practice for major providers charging a special rate for sites wishing to access the highest download speeds for their subscribers. The practice if allowed would have permitted the internet providers to have required major services like Netflix. The recent ruling "implemented sweeping net neutrality rules, including prohibitions on site and app blocking, speed throttling, and paid fast lanes." This means that end users would get their access based upon whatever delivery agreement they had with their ISP not affected by background restrictions placed upon the site being visited.
Since internet accessibility in both countries is affected substantially by the delivery rules set by major telecom and cable companies the two regulators are having to look carefully at how they permit the providers to function. In Canada the base tier of access to the internet is held primarily by a very small group of major companies and the US is not too different.
Since these companies also provide direct consumer services either by phone or internet connection which compete with smaller ISPs who have to buy volume capacity from the majors the regulators are constantly forced to watch for predatory plans which could limit the public's access to what is seen as almost an essential service.
The debates over the rules for access to the internet will continue and consumers need to watch for steps which can adversely affect their interests. The regulators can help but they will be influenced by the attention of consumers as well. For commercial users having their information available to their consumers is a critical part of their strategy. If various pricing strategies start to change whether a site will load quickly or slowly or whether the volume a site needs is affected by the price of the main connection, then commerce on the web will be adversely affected.
Net neutrality will continue to be controversial. Stay tuned.