In between Facebook posts, tweets, and Snapchat photos this week, the
Internet changed dramatically for millions of regular users.
Tuesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Circuit ruled the Federal Communications Commission overstepped the
bounds of its authority when it imposed Open Internet rules in 2010,
commonly known as net neutrality (Verizon v. FCC).
Before eyes begin to glaze over thinking we are going to venture into
technical-speak or have wandered down the road of tennis terms, net
neutrality is really important to those who use the Internet for
business, education, or entertainment. At its most basic definition, the
FCC Open Internet rules that were just struck down made Internet
Service Providers (ISP) treat all data exactly the same.
definition seems pretty straight forward on its surface but how does the
ruling affect Americans? Let’s examine an extreme case without net
neutrality regulations in place. Comcast owns 32% of the online
streaming company Hulu. After the ruling, Comcast can now decide to send
all Hulu data streaming faster to its customers than one of its
competitors like Net Flix. That would, of course, encourage customers
who use Comcast as their ISP to only use Hulu subscription services and
drop all others, greatly increasing revenue for the cable company. This
instance could also work for other cable companies who accept payments
from companies like Apple or Net Flix to move their data to the front of
the electronic highway.
If you think that is too nefarious a
scene to be real, look at this example instead. Suppose that two
companies - one a large multinational corporation with thousands of
employees and the other a small 100-employee firm - are competing in the
same marketplace for the same contracts. Their businesses rely on the
fast transfer of data. Without net neutrality, the large company could
afford to pay higher fees for faster service, the types of dollars that
could put the smaller company out of business.
It gets worse when
the possibilities are reduced to the individual level. Now, ISPs can go
to individual Internet users, people like you and your neighbors, and
handout a new schedule of fees. You could pay exactly what you are
paying now but, your Internet speed may slow during peak hours or large
downloads - like movies - may not be possible. However, if you move up
to the next level of service, for only a little more each month your
data transmission speed will be guaranteed to stay at a certain level.
Want lightning fast service? Pay even more for the premium level. For
users who could not afford it, higher fees could be devastating to those
taking online classes or trying to work from their homes.
certainly a problem that has only come to light in the past few years
as technology has increased and laws written 20, 30, and maybe even 50
years ago struggle to keep up. Warning signs first started appearing
under the Bush administration but nothing was done and under the Obama
administration Washington D.C. has continued to turn a blind eye to
restrictions that could seriously restrict Internet access. Perhaps the
biggest problem is that the FCC has now had a series of directors under
administrations from both sides of the aisle who have not been willing
to fight the political battle against lobbyists to reclassify ISPs as a
“common carrier,” a designation that would force the companies to
provide net neutrality standards without new regulations.
And don’t think those new fees will not be traveling to smartphone services as well. Notice it was Verizon who sued the FCC.
way the situation stands right now about the only thing that is certain
is everyone’s Internet access is about to become more expensive.
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