Picture this, you pull out your phone and open Snapchat. You are ready to feast your eyes on people’s stories and snap your buddies, but it is loading too slow to open any snaps. You get a message from AT&T, letting you know that for $15 more a month you can get “fast” speeds on your social media apps.
Sounds crazy, that you would have to pay extra for a service that you get perfectly fine when you (or your parents) pay the phone bill today.
However, this is the future we could face if the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repeals Net Neutrality protections. The chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai and FCC board vote on Dec. 14 to pass the Orwellian named measure, “Restoring Internet Freedom.”
What is Net Neutrality? Net Neutrality is the idea that all information on the internet, such as Wikipedia articles, cat videos, Snapchat snaps, must be treated equally by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and others.
By treating these websites and internet content fairly, it is meant that ISPs could not create internet “fast lanes” and “slow lanes”, where they could control how fast a certain website or app open to their discretion. For example, ISPs could deliberately slow down a website’s loading speeds and essentially blackmail the website into paying more money to get faster speeds.
And this has already happened in the past. In 2014, Comcast slowed the speeds by which Netflix could deliver content to their consumers in order to force them to pay more to have the speeds they had enjoyed before, essentially blackmailing Netflix for faster speeds.
This is why “Restoring Internet Freedom” is so dangerous, as it moves the Internet from a Title II common carrier to a Title I information service. This means is that under Title II, as it has been since 2015, ISPs were subject to much tougher “utility-style” regulations, which meant that ISPs could not throttle speeds of websites or apps, as Comcast had done to Netflix back in 2014.
Now under Title I, ISPs can deliberately throttle speeds that consumers currently enjoy today.
This would allow ISPs to force tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, and others to pay to have their speeds not throttled down.
We consumers will have to not only pay higher prices to have the internet speeds that we enjoy today, but we will have to pay higher prices to have access to the services we all love to enjoy, like Netflix, Hulu, or Spotify.
Consumers will also be sold cellular data plans that “bundle” certain preferred apps, and charged more for using data from “unpreferred app,” which is the case in Portugal and Spain today, as their governments have no Net Neutrality protections.
And if Comcast or Verizon want to unroll an app that takes the place of a pre-existing app? With Net Neutrality gone, they could simply throttle down the speeds of a pre-existing app, – for example, Spotify — and sell their music-streaming app as being faster than Spotify.
In 2013, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile did this exact thing when they throttled down Google Wallet from their services and replaced them with their own mobile payment service.
However, as ISPs pursue increasing their revenues, the fact is clear that us consumers will lose the most if we allow the FCC to repeal Net Neutrality protections.
Still, don’t think this will be an overnight change, as soon as Title II protections are repealed. ISPs will wait and start making special “deals” and “bundles” to convince consumers that they are getting a good deal, when really consumers will be paying more for a lesser service than they had before.
So what can we do?
We can comment on the FCC’s website for being against the repeal of Net Neutrality protections https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/search/proceedings?q=name:((17-108))
We sign petitions, join marches and protests, and make sure that Congress, FCC, and the citizens or public know that we are against the repeal.
Most of all, we have to face the real possibility that the repeal will happen, as we have no say in the FCC vote. Still, that doesn’t mean we acquiesce defeat, that is, we must support legislation to protect Net Neutrality, whether it is at the local, state, or federal level. That is when we join in protest against ISPs “bundling” the internet for their own profit. We must remain vigilant, and do all that we can to make sure a vital part of our economy, our democracy, and of our lives stays free and open for all.