In the next few weeks the FCC will vote on continued existence of Net Neutrality, the principle that all internet traffic should be treated equally with respect to access and transport speeds. A vote against it could create a situation where consumers might be taken advantage of by internet bandwidth carriers based on the type of websites and webservices they access.
The concept of Net Neutrality is not usually an issue for the casual web surfer, as you would expect that whatever you try to access is only limited by the internet speed you are willing to pay for. Most consumers will buy a product or service, like internet access from an ISP, and if it works as advertised there usually are no concerns. Today you use your internet service to browse websites and services like Amazon, Hulu, YouTube, etc., without being charged extra for the access, while you might pay for a subscription to the website content, the bandwidth that brings it to your computer is included in fees you pay to your ISP. This could all change by next year if the FCC votes to eliminate Net Neutrality or significantly changes the current open, unregulated nature of internet access later this year.
The FCC, which is now run by an ex-Verizon lawyer, is leading the charge for the elimination of Net Neutrality. The revocation of the Net Neutrality principle isn’t necessarily directly targeted at the consumer, but it’s trickle down will surely affect the pocket books and patience of the everyday internet enthusiasts, business owners and the burgeoning internet economy. At this moment, the principle of Net Neutrality forces internet carriers to treat all web traffic the same, meaning that the movie you are streaming, the random websites you visit daily and the business cloud services you use are unable to be slowed down, blocked or leveraged for additional monies.
The game here is to change the playing field and introduce regulations which will allow internet service providers to essentially create traffic lanes, i.e. slow lanes and fast lanes. By doing this internet providers can then charge businesses like Netflix and Amazon a premium to use the fast lane (higher speeds). If companies do not pay these new fees they could be dumped into the slow lane potentially making their services so slow that they will be forced to pay to allow quick access to their content. For consumers, this means that the costs incurred by some of these businesses may be passed down to us to cover the additional costs. Essentially internet providers can, through these regulations, decide what can be accessed and potentially open the door to internet censorship. Internet services will likely go up and certain content will cost more to access.
The internet giants like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are the winners here and their ability to decide who is heard, who is not and what type of places you can visit isn’t the type of internet any of us would ever want. Their interests are not ours and the very real threat of the elimination of Net Neutrality could be a massive hit to internet users and businesses across this country.
The vote by the FCC is scheduled for December 14th. There are ways you can be heard, but the impact it will have remains to be seen. Reach out to your congressional representatives and sign the petition on freepress.net or savetheinternet.com. Maybe enough of us can be heard to make a difference.