Science And The Death of Net Neutrality

Jun 18, 2018

It’s official – the net neutrality rules put into place by the FCC in 2015 went away on April 23 after being repealed by the Trump Administration in December.

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.

Most of the controversy about the decision centered on the impact the changes will have on residential internet customers or small businesses.

But some in the science community have voiced concern that data-intensive research could suffer, and that could have impacts for all of us.

“I spoke with a meteorologist who told me that he relies on the internet for all of his work,” said Ari Daniel, Senior Digital Producer for NOVA. Daniel recently looked into the possible impacts of the net neutrality rule change on science.

“He’s worried that if he doesn’t choose to pay an extra fee…it could impact his ability to get access to weather and climate data sets that are particularly voluminous.”

Others who spoke to Daniel said they feared the government would limit or even block scientific sites that offer politically sensitive information, such as climate change data. Daniel points out that this is hypothetical.

“There’s no evidence that companies would do this kind of thing,” he said.

This means that scientists are just like the rest of us -- waiting to see what the death of net neutrality really means. 

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Here is a video that Ari Daniel created about the impacts of net neutrality on science: