Net neutrality is on the chopping block yet again.
If you do not understand net neutrality, how it works, why we need it, or what the consequences – both intended and unintended are likely to be, you’ve come to the right place.
I’ve included links to previous articles I wrote that explain in detail what we had prior to the 2015 “net neutrality order” about halfway down the page, if you want to skip down there and do some research.
First up, my short (maybe) list of items that are actually pertinent to net neutrality.
- Net neutrality did not start in 2015.
- Obama is not the guy who created net neutrality.
- Of course Obama appointed Ajit Pai to the FCC, the seat was required to go to a Republican.
Comcast, ATT, Verizon, etc did not “build the internet”, although they would like you to think that they did. Verizon, for instance, bought into a bankrupt, scandal-ridden MCI Worldcom corporation that spent as much time in court defending their actions as they did marketing their company.
Where did the internet actually come from?
The internet, as we know it, was created as a commercialization of a US DoD project – ARPAnet. The initial cost of development was paid for with tax payer monies, and the ongoing cost of developing telecom projects is paid for by tax payers and current customers, and these costs are hidden in your bills under charges named things like “Regulatory Recovery Costs”, and are derived from deals that telcos made with state and local governments when the original fiber – and the shadow fiber – were laid down.
Telcos are allowed to ‘recover’ costs from previous years and they are guaranteed a recovery rate on future use of installations that were previously laid but sat unused until there was enough demand to “light” the fiber.
So what’s the big deal with net neutrality?
At the moment, ISPs (internet service providers) are pretty pissed off at companies like Google, Facebook and others who control HUGE blocks of revenue, mostly ad-based, which is the reason that you don’t pay to use these services; you are the product, in case you were wondering, and the advertisers that pay money to these companies to gain access to your news feed, search results or in-app advertising, are the ones spending the vast sums that it takes to make the internet run the way we know it today.
These ISPs have found an ally in Pai, who is the new FCC chairman, after the departure of Tom Wheeler, the former chair. Wheeler was a staunch advocate of a level playing field, and his belief was that if the internet was regulated as if it were a utility – like your electricity, your water, your telephone service over land lines – that it would create an environment where small companies could compete with large ones.
But Google and Facebook are very large companies.
Why yes, they are, dear reader, but they both started out in someone’s garage or someone’s dorm room. Access to the internet at the same price that others paid – based on volume of bandwidth used – is how these companies, along with a hundred more that you use every day, like Uber, Lyft, AirBNB, Wikipedia, craigslist, and so on, all came out of the fair price for delivering data over the internet.
The premise of net neutrality is that you only pay for what you use, but you pay the same price for everything you choose to use.
I wrote about this before, more than once –
Online privacy vs online advertising – back in April, when Pai decided it was a great idea to let the telecom companies – ISPs – determine what kind of advertising to show you, since they have the ability to insert their own content into your internet in a lot of instances.
Net Neutrality, What Does It Really Mean to the Average Person? – this one was in May, when things started to heat up.
And again, in May – Me & John Oliver Are Out to Save Net Neutrality – which is another in depth discussion of the history of net neutrality and you can read it for yourself.
But how does this affect me and my family?
Simply put, it means that ISPs are allowed to charge more for access to the internet, based on reasons they choose. If they don’t like a particular service, they can make you pay more to see it, or they can make the service provider pay them to enable you to see it at normal speeds.
Even more insidiously, they can stop you from seeing content. What if you don’t want to use Bing to search, you’d rather have Google? (Wouldn’t we all…) They can prevent you from getting access to Google, or they make Google move so slowly that Bing is lightning fast in comparison, and let’s face it, you’ll go with the quicker response, it is simple human nature.
What about my small business?
Right now, you pay a fee to have your website hosted somewhere. If you truly are a small business, it’s very likely that it’s a very small fee, relative to what big companies are paying. What if you were charged 5x, 10x, or even more to have your website? What if ATT or Verizon doesn’t like your business name, business type, or someone down the road pays them more money to show their business instead of yours?
The same thing applies with mobile content – what if Verizon, for instance, gets into yet another dispute with Google and decides to make Google Play move so slowly that people have a hard time downloading apps?
You don’t think that Verizon would keep your mobile app from users?
Let me tell you about the way that Verizon, ATT and TMobile blocked Google Wallet from Android users on their platforms for years, because they owned a competing mobile wallet, sadly called Isis Wallet, and they refused to let their customers use Google Wallet instead.
Yeah, not too good is it?
My opinion of Ajit Pai is simple. He is trying to dupe the American population into believing that his former employer, Verizon, and the rest of the telecoms, won’t be taking advantage of these new regulations.
My reply is also simple – why else would T-Mobile buy a streaming OTT company recently?
Why else would Verizon sign a deal with the NFL to be their streaming video provider when their own go90 streaming service is so bad it’s almost unusable?
AT&T already owns DirectTV, what if they decide they won’t allow HBO’s stand alone subscription to be used by people who are ATT customers but don’t have DirectTV as well?
Over The Top is the term used for cord cutters who access streaming video without having a cable or satellite TV subscription solely for that purpose.
Yeah, when you look at it that way, it’s all an easy picture to sort out. Telcos want the revenue, the billions in profit they post (record profits no less) isn’t enough for them, and they’ve figured out a way to get more money out of our pockets for the exact same services.
Here’s the lovely fellow making a truly dumb video. This is the guy that’s in charge of the internet in America? I’ll quote AVClub for this one –
As a way to convince people to get aboard his plan, it’s abysmal—no one’s arguing that we won’t be able to “’gram food” or watch Game Of Thrones when net neutrality passes, just that we’ll be at the whims of our already quasi-monopolistic ISPs when it comes to how much we’ll pay to do it (and how fast it’ll be when we do). But as a bit of textbook “smug asshole gloating,” it’s straight out of the playbook of his boss, Donald Trump, as we’re forced to watch this goofy jackass twist a fidget spinner and do the fucking Harlem Shake, even as he plots to strip protections from the most important technological advance of the modern era.