The EU just gave big business the opportunity to buy internet 'fast lanes'

The European Union dealt a blow to net neutrality on Tuesday by not including new amendments that would prevent so-called “fast lanes” on the internet.

Net neutrality is the concept that all internet traffic should be treated equally. Companies should not be allowed to pay internet service providers (ISPs) extra money to create a fast lane to deliver their content or services to customers.

Net neutrality advocates say that if rich companies are able to pay to prioritise their content, then it stifles innovation from startups and smaller companies that may offer better services. By treating all internet traffic equally, advocates say, everyone has a fair shot at remaining competitive, which benefits consumers in the end.

To be clear, the EU rules do not allow ISPs to slow down internet traffic for companies that do not pay for a fast lane. But it does give companies a window to pay ISPs for a fast lane. The rules are pretty open, and people who are pro-net neutrality were hoping the EU would tighten up the rules to specifically ban fast lanes.

Telecom companies and some big internet companies do not like the concept of net neutrality. They say say allowing fast lanes will actually help increase innovation and allow them to deliver better services to their customers over the internet.

At the same time, fast lanes can be good for important services for things like medical devices, cybersecurity, and other connected devices. Those things typically get priority traffic through the the internet anyway, no matter what net neutrality rules are in place.

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