What is Net Neutrality?
For the last 20 years or so, we’ve had a ‘net neutral’ Internet. That means that we pay one price to our service providers you know, Comcast, BellSouth, AOL, Earthlink whoever we pay for our Internet, and then we have been able to look at and do whatever we wanted within the limits of the law with that bandwidth.
We could watch YouTube, chat on bulletin boards, stream Netflix, or Amazon, buy/sell on Ebay, shop- whatever was out there, we could access it and read or use it.
A few years back some people started sharing things directly with each other. It was called peer to peer networking, and a lot of people were sharing movies, music, ebooks, and snippets of code, or perhaps software. Some of it was legal, some of it was not. In any event, you could participate if you wanted to at your own risk and reconnaissance.
Then suddenly, Comcast, and maybe other service providers, ISPs, started throttling that content, so if you tried to do it, it was so incredibly slow that you just gave up. Users were outraged, after all, their Internet use was supposed to be unlimited.
Why did they do it? They said it used up a lot of bandwidth and was slowing their networks. It does, compared with looking at simple web pages of just text. Another option would have been for them to upgrade the networks, as millions were coming online everyday, and they were raking in more than enough money for profit and upgrades. And remember, it was public money that funded the development of the Internet in the first place.
The FCC moved to prohibit this sort of throttling, which renders websites or services basically useless. Their thoughts were that everyone should have an equal right to do business on the Internet without being shut off or slowed down by the providers.
A federal court has decided that the FCC doesn’t have the right to do this.
Do you have a kid that likes to game online? How will you like it when you see an option to add online gaming to your bill for just 20.00 more a month? Or you get a notice that there will be a $3 per hour surcharge for online gaming access to Playstation or Xbox networks?
Do you like to stream movies, use a Roku, Netflix, or Hulu? What happens when Comcast decides that Netflix and Hulu are just too much competition, and are letting users watch tv without paying for their cable package? Suddenly it gets throttled, and Comcast users can no longer use those services, or maybe they can, but for only 1 hour a month. The users in the cities can switch to Verizon, or another provider that allows that traffic, but the poor users in the more rural areas have no real options for high-speed access. They get stuck. If they do change, their primary email addresses might be lost.
Do you LIKE the process of buying cable tv? Because I hate it. I mean, I LOATHE it. I would hate to be presented with an INTERNET channels lineup list. I can just see it now.
- Basic Tier 1 service – GOVT and EDU sites FACEBOOK and email included FREE (So they can spy on us.) 9.95/month (Low income subsidized aka obamanet so poor people can access the employment agency, public school and food stamp sites.)
- Digital Delight – Tier 1 plus Twitter, CNN, WebMD, Wikipedia, 10 hours/month of YouTube use, and all Amazon content.
- GAMER PACKAGE Includes Tier 1, Digital Delight, plus 20 hours a month of game time. Additional hours are billed at $1.50 an hour.
- HOME BUSINESS PACKAGE – Includes Tier 1, Digital Delight, plus the ability to upload content to the web, use Skype, Vonage or Magic Jack. Access to 100 websites of your choice. Perfect for online sellers or web site operators.
- MOVIE WATCHER- Tier 1, Digital Delight, and Business packages along with a generous 40 hour of HD video streaming from your choice of sites.
I’ve got to stop before my head explodes. This is where we are probably headed without net neutrality. We could also see political filtering courtesy of corporations, not government. Restriction of commerce and competition, basically a surgical excision of the Internet freedom we’ve all enjoyed that’s what can happen if there is no net neutrality.
Meanwhile, other countries may not go this route, and their citizens would continue to have wide access to online collaboration and information. Maybe there will be a 2nd Renaissance. It could happen everywhere but in the USA, since we’re going to all be too busy working to pay our Internet overlords to use it anyway.
Now, I am biased, and I admit it. I do want to present the flip side of the argument. There are a handful of big telecoms that are providing service. They argue that the networks are theirs, and no one should tell them how to run their business, and that the FCC has no authority to tell them what to do with their businesses.
That vibes well with the libertarian in me, but then I remember, that the constitution gave the US govt. the ability to regulate interstate commerce from the beginning. If we don’t politically engage in battle to uphold net neutrality, we’re going to slip further into corporatocracy, as this handful of companies can censor access to websites, which are often the modern equivalent of storefronts.