By Zachary Wright
Imagine this: We all know that you have to pay a bill to have electricity in our homes. Now, imagine buying your first apartment. You expect to be able to plug in your phone charger and have it charge like it would with any other outlet in your home. Now, imagine having to pay extra just to charge your phone. Not only, you’d have to pay more just to have it charged at a certain voltage. Of course, that won’t apply to your laptop, your fridge or anything else that requires electricity. If you want your laptop covered and to be charged with the same voltage as your phone, you’ll have to pay that as a bundle to your electric provider.
Luckily for us, we don’t have to pay extra fees for this. However, that might not be the case if the Federal Communications Commission repeals net neutrality – the very thing that prevents your internet service provider from favoring certain websites and blocking access or slowing the speed of others. It treats any and all data the same. If you pay for internet, you expect to be able to access your email at the same speed you’re paying for. That’s because with net neutrality, all content is treated the same. A show you watch on Netflix would play at the same quality as it would on YouTube.
Without net neutrality, your internet would be like cable. You’d pay for certain bundles and packages for certain websites like you would with those special packages from your cable provider. Like cable, you’d pay more than necessary for poorer service. Not all the sites you’d usually access would be treated equally. You would pay more for your services and could even see certain websites bundled together, sold as a package and charged more to just access those.
Entertainment is one thing, but consider access to information. News agencies could be the first sites to be throttled or banned from access entirely. Say you get your news from CNN but the area you live in is very conservative, there’s a good chance that your provider could throttle your speed to CNN. Sometimes, it isn’t outright slowing access to where it is so frustrating to try to access, but doing little things like having your access delayed by a few more seconds than normal, having a video only play at the lowest quality possible or better yet, having that video play at the lowest quality and buffer every two seconds. Now, a third party website can pay an ISP to cut to the front of the line but it is more likely an ISP will place their favorite content to the front.
What are you going to do about a slow website? You’ll more than likely access another website. That one can be accessed without problems or it’ll be under the mercy of your provider that didn’t approve of you accessing the other.
Another realistic example is that you can access that site, but you have to pay for an upgrade to access all parts of it. If this was news, you’d have to pay an upgrade to access the news article you wanted to read or that viral video you wanted to watch.
In other words, the phone you’re trying to charge will charge perfectly in the kitchen but it’ll be like charging only two percent every hour in your bedroom. Is that what we’re wanting for the internet? Is it unrealistic to believe large firms that are directly in the pockets of Congress like Comcast wouldn’t throttle access to news? Throttling speed is deliberately slowing access to whatever site you’re trying to use. Imagine the wifi you’ve tried to use on an airplane. It might be free but until you pick a package and pay a fee, you won’t have even mediocre connection. If you limit access by blocking the site or deliberately slowing the speed, you’re taking away one of the fundamental rights that people living here may not get in other places. That is freedom of press.
Essentially regulating how you even access news is a form of censorship and makes ISPs like Comcast powerful. For many, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon may be the only provider in the area that they can choose. Of course, they’ll be at the mercy of whatever package deals they’ll throw out. In larger cities, smaller ISPs may not be able to compete with these corporate giants who have histories of aggressively opposed net neutrality. By eliminating this policy, which has bolstered internet innovation, creates more of a monopoly. What are small businesses going to do? If they can’t afford to pay internet providers, then their businesses are more than likely to fail. A lot of businesses can be operated entirely online. Eliminating net neutrality can be harmful for small or new businesses because these large corporations can easily pay the fees required. Smaller internet providers, especially those in small towns, just can’t compete. It creates winners and losers for business instead of having them on the same playing field. It hurts small businesses because their market and conducting business online would be stalled and limited. Even with net neutrality, it is difficult for businesses to get a strong footing. The fees are no issue for companies that can throw away money.
Conveniently, Comcast erased from their website their promise to defend net neutrality on the same day the FCC announced their plan to dismantle the Obama era regulations (arstechnica.com). So, was their pledge only there because the FCC originally enforced to keep data treated the same? Sounds a little sketchy to me. Isn’t also convenient that Ajit Pai used to work for Verizon?
Keep in mind, this is reality for many people across the world. In Portugal, internet service providers split their web into packages (LATimes.com). They pay a few more dollars a month just to even access emails. In China, internet providers immediately block access to American websites and manipulate the flow of news in a country of over one billion people.
Another problem with repealing of net neutrality is how many representatives, specifically the Republican Party, are not listening to the concerns of Americans that represent them. Congress has the power to keep net neutrality but it is clear they will continue to allow just five people to vote on it. Comcast, just one huge corporation that’s trying to monopolize internet service, lobbies to repeal net neutrality often. To pretend the FCC doesn’t acknowledge that many Americans want to keep net neutrality is absolutely absurd considering how much backlash they’ve received this past year. This is not the first time citizens had to fight to keep net neutrality, even this year. The FCC has repeatedly tried to dismantle the milestones that make the internet what it’s worth today. The internet is quite literally in the hands of just five people. They’re making decisions that are not in the best interest of the people living here. Essentially, they have said corporations matter more than you do.
Republican senators and House members sold out to the telecom lobby. Republican senator Mitch McConnell sold out his fellow Kentucky residents for about $250,000 (thedailydot.com). Who wins when you eliminate net neutrality? It’s definitely not the everyday people.