Net Neutrality in the near future
Last June headlines on most tech sites from the US read almost the same thing: “Net neutrality was repealed a year ago — what’s happened since?” It seems surreal to have lived more than a year now without one of the Internet’s pillars. Yet, as many of those articles noticed, the apocalypse many predicted would ensue after the fall of net neutrality didn’t take place. Does that mean nothing happened?
Of course not. Though a major disaster hasn’t happened (yet), there have been countless minor things that were highly concerning. From Verizon throttling the Santa Clara County Fire Department’s broadband connection during the fires that ravaged California to T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T selling customers’ geolocation, there’s a lot to be worried about – especially for what’s to come.
That’s right. The fact that premium packages for Internet access or outright website banning haven’t happened yet doesn’t mean it couldn’t in the near future. The lack of net neutrality in the US is a threat for anyone doing business through digital channels – which is to say, everyone in the whole country. Even seemingly unrelated industries are or can be affected by its absence. Software outsourcing is a prime example.
Net neutrality and its importance
But first, let’s remember what’s net neutrality and why it’s so important. Network neutrality defends that companies providing Internet connections (also known as Internet Service Providers or ISPs) should treat all the data that’s transferred through their networks equally. Basically, this principle means that the ISPs can’t tamper or cap the transfers in favor of particular apps, sites, or services.
You surely can deduct the importance of net neutrality from its own definition. Without that guiding principle, the companies providing the Internet connections could favor any service, site or app they want without any repercussions. In practical terms, this could mean that the ISPs could increase the speed and performance of a particular streaming site while capping the speed of the competition.
This would turn the ISPs into gatekeepers capable of deciding the contents that are more visible, simply by enhancing the ones that are aligned with their own interests while slowing down the ones that are not. Imagine that. The ISPs could strike business alliances with other companies to favor them over their competitors.
For Internet users, this would mean that we could only access whatever the ISPs deem important, see what they push in our direction and, ultimately, consume what they feel is “right.” You don’t need me to tell you that that goes against everything the Internet has stood for since its very inception.
Users would be forced to pay for a lesser service, with premium packages adding to the basic subscription to gain access to whatever services the ISPs want to charge for. Think of a video package, a music package, a productivity package – all payable by the end-user to access a limited version of the Internet we have today.
What could that mean for software outsourcing?
Now, as you can imagine, such power in the hands of ISPs could mean a lot of things for a lot of services across almost any industry. The lack of net neutrality would give the providers enough power to boost the visibility of any site, service or platform they want without any repercussion. In the end, you, I, and all Internet users would have to pay more to gain access to more alternatives – and that’s without the certainty that we’d be accessing all the possible alternatives!
This is something serious for a lot of people and businesses, even the ones that aren’t in the US. And, as we said above, software outsourcing is a great example to understand it. Since outsourcing software development sees American companies hiring teams from abroad (be it from nearshore countries from Latin America or offshoring to more distant regions like India or China), most of the collaboration is done through the Internet.
Communication, data transfer, progress tracking, and overall management are some of the things that are done through the Web with the aid of special tools and platforms. That’s possible thanks to net neutrality, which guarantees that both the US company and the outsourcing company can use the same tools without issues or limitations.
However, things can get complicated without net neutrality, even if it’s lacking in just one of the countries. How so? The ISPs could enforce their gatekeeper positions and prevent US companies from getting in touch with the outsourcing companies right from the get-go. Think about it. Any successful software outsourcing project begins with thorough research of the potential collaborators. How can you do that if your research doesn’t show you all the available options?
There’s more. Let’s say that you already have a regular software development provider in another country and can start a new project. That doesn’t prevent the ISPs from capping your transfer speeds and charging you extra money to use the tools you need to get the development going. Since you need to make video calls, share big files, and use management platforms to keep things running smoothly with the outsourced developers, that’s a price you’d have to pay no matter what.
We could take matters a little further and say that ISPs team up with local development companies to limit the outsourcing options that make up their competition. The lack of net neutrality could allow Internet providers to block certain IPs without detailed reasons. Since that kind of discrimination isn’t illegal (since net neutrality was repealed by the FCC), there wouldn’t be much anything you could do.
Everything Runs Through Internet
As you can see, a fundamental principle of the Internet such as net neutrality is necessary for all kinds of industries, even for seemingly unaffected ones like software outsourcing. It doesn’t matter if software development companies are located in countries that have their own laws understanding of net neutrality: since everything is done through the Internet, the ISPs could still meddle with the collaboration.
After reading all of this, it’s only normal to feel a little bleak, but that doesn’t mean everything is lost. If you value the Internet you’ve come to know and love and work in a company that collaborates with companies from other countries, there’s still hope. There are plenty of organizations, institutions, and companies teaming up to fight the repeal and reinstate net neutrality.
It won’t be an easy fight but it’s worth fighting it. Not just because of software development or for business sake’s, but for an open and free Internet for all.