Net Neutrality. Just reading those two words has probably already put you to sleep, but you better wake up! The rules governing how data and services work on the internet are about to get re-written in a manner that almost strictly benefits the internet service providers and their mass media empires.
In a nutshell, the current net neutrality rules in place require internet service providers to treat all traffic equally. Comcast is not supposed to slowdown services such as Netflix or Hulu, even though there have been reports of this in the past. Net Neutrality gives everyone an equal playing field when offering their own online products, services, websites, blogs, or anything else imaginable.
The current FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, wants to roll back all regulations surrounding net neutrality rules to create a more “open and free internet.” This is intellectually dishonest because in reality, this removes the level playing field and allows the internet services providers to pick winners and losers. Internet service providers would be able to charge a fee or some type of toll to allow companies to get their services prioritized on the internet for speed. If you can’t afford the fee, then you risk minimizing your online presence by not being able to find it or having your website function so poorly that no one would ever use it. The FCC is scheduled to vote on the “new” Net Neutrality rules in the middle of May.
Signs of this have already been seen in the mobile wireless industry with lack of enforcement of zero-rating policies. In the past, there were rules preventing wireless carriers from giving preferential treatment to their own services by not counting usage of certain apps against their clients’ monthly data allowances. Now that the zero-rating rules are not being enforced, services such as DIRECTV Streaming do not count against your data if you are an AT&T customer, but watching a YouTube video does count.
This clearly hurts other tech innovators such as Netflix, Sling TV, Hulu etc. Why would a person sign up for a service that could cost them more on their wireless cell phone bill? It’s pretty obvious that consumers will pick the services that won’t cost them precious gigabytes and risk running up a huge data bill each month.
Another possibility is the next generation of tech innovators working on the next advances such as virtual reality or artificial intelligence. It would be in the best interest of the internet service provider to watch these up and coming startups, mimic the technology, and then redirect the internet to their own service or try to extort a small visionary for more money.
We live in an era of mass consolidation from our largest media providers. The companies that provide our basic internet service are also some of the largest at producing the same media we consume. They want to control how we consume, what we consume, and who we can consume it from. These organizations have such a strong control over the content, that you better have the money to get your message out or it might just get lost and never make it to the public. Net Neutrality rules need to remain in place.
We still struggle with areas of the country that have no broadband access with legislation attempting to limit certain localities from getting access altogether, as well as a mafia style system to prevent more than once ISP from servicing an area. Throw in the rules that let the internet service providers sell your private browsing history, it really makes you wonder who has all of the power in our great country?