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What Does Net Neutrality Mean for Apps Like Instagram?

Emily Sundberg

On Thursday, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission repealed Net Neutrality rules, despite objections from the vast majority of Americans. The Obama-era Net Neutrality rules dictated that all internet traffic be created equally, but with this repeal, internet service providers like AT&T and Comcast can charge more for higher speed Internet. It essentially treats the internet like it’s a luxury, instead of a necessary public utility, like the phone system or highways and roads.

The decision could have major consequences for how use consume the internet, including your favorite apps like Instagram. Here’s how.

Increased fees could cause social networks like Instagram to start charging you to use them. Repealing Net Neutrality rules makes it legal for internet service providers like Comcast to decide to charge major sites like Facebook and Google extra fees to make their sites work faster and better than the rest of the internet. Google and Facebook (which owns Instagram) could then pass that expense on to you, the same way cable companies charge for premium channels and online access. Although we don’t know for sure that ISPs would increase prices in this way, it’s not unlikely that you could end up paying a subscription fee for Instagram to continue loading and working at its usual speed, just like you pay an extra fee for HBO or Hulu.

Something like this is already happening outside the U.S. As Select All pointed out earlier this year, countries without net neutrality, like Portugal, already do a version of this: “Want to access sites like Facebook at cheap rates? Just pay our monthly ‘social-network package’ fee. Suddenly, your ability to do all the stuff you’re used to doing on your phone, at the prices you’re used to paying, is subject to the draconian policies of your cell-phone company.”

And it could happen in the U.S. very soon. The FCC’s decision will likely be challenged in court, since it’s a complex process to overturn the 2015 Obama administration decision. But unless Congress does something to stop it, the era of free and open Internet could be coming to an end.

But the fight’s not over yet. You can learn more about how you can fight against the FCC’s decision here.

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