It was completely expected, but still quite shocking that today the [US repealed net neutrality](http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/12/trumps-fcc-just-killed-net-neutrality-but-the-first-legal-challenges-are-already-coming/). Net neutrality is the principle that all traffic is treated “equally”, in that an ISP cannot select traffic of competing services and give it a lower priority.
**Quality of Service and Net Neutrality**
This doesn’t mean that more demanding traffic isn’t handled differently — often real-time traffic such as video games, robot control, etc would be given priority over streaming video and audio, which is given priority over file transfers and web traffic, and finally things like emails which are the most delay tolerant and have the least Quality of Service (QoS) requirements are given the lowest priority. This is usually done via mechanisms like priority queues, whereby some of the nodes in the network may empty the higher priority queues more frequently, or take a higher proportion of packets from the higher priority queues.
With net neutrality, all data within a class, however, should be treated equally — regardless of which company the data is being forwarded for. For instance, Netflix traffic should be delivered with the same priority as Hulu traffic, and Youtube traffic, and the same priority as Rogers video traffic (even though the ISP may be Rogers, and they provide a competing video service).
Without net neutrality, Rogers, AT&T, Bell, Verizon, etc. would be free to only deliver their own video service traffic they wish, essentially starving the consumer of any choice. They could also be slightly less malicious and just lower the speed — essentially putting their own services in the highest priority queues.
**Protocol Innovation, Optimization**
This means that no matter how hard Netflix, Hulu and Youtube optimizes their protocols, encoding, and compression to be more efficient, they would always be at a disadvantage to the ISP itself.
Further, it means the end of protocol innovation. If the ISPs want — they could only carry traffic that wasn’t encrypted. They could only carry traffic that didn’t contain blockchain protocols. They could carry only traffic they control completely.
Worse still — this principle also protects the content itself. One of the greatest things about the Internet is that we can freely publish and consume just about any type of content — regardless of how crazy (flat earth, conspiracy theories, etc.). Net neutrality allows the content to have the same likelihood of being successfully delivered as any other similar class of content. (ie: a webpage of a conspiracy theory is just as likely to be delivered as a university webpage).
Without net neutrality, it will be possible for the ISPs to become censorship mechanisms on our content. If the ISP has political leanings (and they do — since many of them also have holdings in newspapers, tv news, etc) — they could suppress content that doesn’t match their political worldview.
All of these possibilities are extremely troubling, but — it would require many of the ISPs to actually participate in this way. Here’s hoping some will hold out for what is good and right, and become the hero the people.
**The Alternative — Mesh Networks based on Openness, Freedom & Security**
In the meantime and just in case it doesn’t work out like that I’m sure you’ll see a major rise in community mesh networks that will continue to grow until we end up with an alternative to the Internet where “we the people” volunteer our own devices and build our networks where participating relies on the assumption that devices will observe the principles of openness, freedom and security we all believe in.
[Originally posted on medium on Dec 15, 2017](https://medium.com/@compscidr/rip-open-free-internet-long-live-the-open-free-internet-c9dd83b6860).