Think your cable and Internet bill costs too much already?
Enjoy freely surfing the web’s variety of funny, informative, and even weird, content?
Thanks to a party-line vote to repeal net neutrality by the appointed members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last Thursday, you could end up paying more to view certain Internet content or not even be able to access certain content at all.
What is (was) net neutrality?
Net neutrality rules made the Internet a level playing field for all content providers and consumers. They required Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to allow equal access to all lawful web content.
ISPs like Spectrum, Frontier, and Comcast, couldn’t charge you more to access certain websites. Nor could they slow down your connection to other Internet content.
Mozilla – the company known for its Firefox web browser – succinctly describes it this way: “In other words, the Web is a level playing field: you can read, watch, play, browse and share on the same terms as everybody else.”
Net neutrality rules adopted by the FCC went into effect in 2015. Those rules prohibited certain practices by Internet Service Providers, as described in this excerpt from a December 14 New York Times article:
“BLOCKING – Internet service providers could not discriminate against any lawful content by blocking websites or apps.
“THROTTLING – Service providers could not slow the transmission of data based on the nature of the content, as long as it is legal.
“PAID PRIORITIZATION – Service providers could not create an Internet fast lane for companies and consumers who pay premiums, and a slow lane for those who don’t.”
The FCC’s decision
Last Thursday, the five appointed members of the FCC voted along party-lines to repeal those 2015 rules.
Essentially, they caved in to lobbyists of major communications corporations.
Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO, wrote to Google users in 2006, “The phone and cable monopolies, who control almost all Internet access, want the power to choose who gets access to high-speed lanes and whose content gets seen first and fastest. They want to build a two-tiered system and block on-ramps for those who can’t pay.”
How this could affect you
First, Internet providers could begin to create bundles of content – increasing your monthly Internet bill. This is similar to what cable and satellite providers already do for television content.
Want to access social media sites? That’s an extra subscription package per month.
Want to stream videos from Hulu, Netflix and YouTube? You’ll need to pay more for a separate bundle.
This is already happening in other countries, such as Portugal, where no net neutrality rules exist.
Second, they could completely prohibit you from viewing certain content at all – or make it extremely painful to do so.
For example, Comcast is the parent company of NBC and MSNBC. They could decide to deny subscribers the ability to access any news content other than that produced by NBC/MSNBC. Or they could slow down connections to other news sites so that it takes longer to load, thereby discouraging people from trying to even access it.
(I agree, this may be an extreme and unlikely example. But with the repeal of the rules, it is now possible.)
Third, Internet providers could allow deep-pocketed companies to pay for faster load times of their websites.
This could prevent small businesses and non-profit organizations from promoting their products, services and causes to the same audiences.
Your voice matters – Say something!
The repeal of net neutrality is a bad deal for consumers and businesses alike.
The FCC’s decision faces serious congressional and legal challenges in the months ahead. So major changes won’t happen immediately.
But if you enjoy a free, fair access to the Internet, you can’t just finish reading this column, move on to the next article, and do nothing.
I encourage you to call or write your federal representatives in Congress. Let them know you want them to challenge the FCC’s decision.
Call or write the Indiana Attorney General’s office. Encourage them to join with New York’s Attorney General in filing a multi-state lawsuit against the FCC’s repeal.
A free and open Internet is an important platform for free speech and open enterprise.