Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality is a hot issue right now, especially since this Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (in charge or TV, radio, internet, etc. in the USA) will be unveiling their new Open Internet policy.  No one is sure what exactly to expect, but there is a great fear that the internet is about to get a lot worse for everyone in the United States.  This is because Internet Service Providers (like AOL, Comcast, and Time Warner) have not been shy about their wishes make more money by charging websites to use a proposed “fast lane” in the internet.  Internet users like us could possibly be charged to access certain websites as well.

Netflix is already paying Comcast more money for regular speed internet. The struggle is real.
Netflix is already paying Comcast more money for regular speed internet. The struggle is real.

Right now, Internet Service Providers (ISPs, for short) get to make money by giving us access to the internet.  The whole internet.  Nothing is censored and no website gets to be delivered faster than another.  ISPs are not allowed to discriminate or become gatekeepers.

Gatekeeper: someone who controls what information reaches the consumer

But the ISPs want to remove the laws currently preventing them from making some websites faster than others and charging people more for the privilege of being faster.  The ISPs are just hatching a scheme to make more money, but they are trying to trick the public into thinking this is a good thing.  They’re proposing the creation of a fast lane and hoping people assume they mean adding a new feature to the internet that makes some websites faster than the normal speed.  What they actually want to do is slow down the internet and charge more to use the normal speed, which is technically faster than the slow internet they’d have created.  This explainer puts it best:

Basically, the ISPs can get richer while most everyone else loses time waiting for less-popular websites to load and money paying for access to websites.

If ISPs are successful in eliminating Net Neutrality, websites can become similar to cable television channels.  In the United States, some channels are free to watch, like ABC, CBS, and NBC.   Some channels, like AMC or Disney, are part of a basic cable package that costs money.  Other channels, like HBO or Showtime, are part of a premium cable package that costs even more money.  There are various packages of television channels you can get from various providers.  And without Net Neutrality, the internet could look a lot like this:

Horrifying.
Click Image To Enlarge

You could be charged for access to packages of websites, which would be just as annoying for the internet as it is for cable TV, but even more so because we use it for more than just news and entertainment.

Another danger with the proposed end of Net Neutrality is that ISPs would have the freedom to block or censor content if they feel it’s reasonable.  Potentially, Comcast could block AOL’s website and claim that it was for technical reasons or something.  This video explains this possibility in more detail:

Or an ISP could block a politician’s website and claim it interfered with internet traffic (when it could really be because the ISP’s CEO hates that politician).  The end of Net Neutrality in America could be the end of free speech in America’s internet.

Recently, the popular website Reddit created a blog post that explains how an average person can make a difference regarding the threat to end Net Neutrality.  Included are walkthroughs of how to let Congress and the FCC know that Net Neutrality is important to you, which helps because it’s supposed to be Congress and the FCC’s job to protect the interests of the people.

Comments on Reddit regarding the blog post affirm the power of making phone calls to Congress, claiming that even a hundred calls can stand out because few calls are made in the first place.  Click here to read these comments.

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