*The image for this article is Access Denied, this is not a mistake.
It would be quite an understatement to say that when the FCC voted to approve net neutrality laws in 2015, the internet was very happy. Everything seemed like rainbows, and sunshine, we all put away our virtual pitchforks. Unfortunately, it is my duty to tell you that you will need to not only find your pitchfork, but to sharpen it… What I am talking about is the FCC’s upcoming vote, in May of 2017, to start reversing net neutrality laws. If you don’t know what net neutrality is or have forgotten, since it was a million internet years ago, I’ll explain.
Net Neutrality is the concept that ALL internet traffic no matter the source/destination, or the actual contents itself should be treated equal. To put it simply, the argument is that I as a consumer should be able to use any kind of application on the internet and not have to worry about my speeds being lowered because my Internet Service Providers (ISP) wants more money. If I would like to watch a movie on Netflix or Youtube, I don’t want that to end up being slowed down by, what is essentially, corporate greed. This sounds like a “No Duhhh” kind of idea, but unsurprisingly it is very political and very controversial (no thanks in part because the large amount of money politicians get from telecommunication company lobbying). The main and singular argument against this idea of data equality is that the government shouldn’t regulate things like this and should leave it up to the free markets and businesses (Because you know they ALWAYS have your best interest in mind * heavy-handed sarcasm *). One also might make the argument that the company would be losing out on money if they allowed any kind of internet traffic to pass thru their cables. Unfortunately that argument is very much false, this very interesting article from the Huffington post shows that Time Warner Cable made a 97% profit margin off of their average consumer for internet in 2013. I am not saying that they should be giving away internet for rock bottom prices, but if they are charging 40$ for internet that only cost them 1$, then they have no right to argue that Net Neutrality will severely and negatively impact with their profits.
So now you might be thinking “Alright, so why should I care and what could I do”. Well tech savvy internet user, let me tell you all about the horrible, and very possible future without net neutrality. One VERY real example is since most of the ISPs own a large majority of fiber optic cables that make up the internet, they can police and discriminate against data that comes through it. A famous case of this was Comcast was purposely letting the “interconnections become congested in order to extract payments”. This is an arstechnica article back in 2014. In the article, Comcast was saying that Netflix was using to much traffic and it was unfair to them, and in order to make things right, they (more or less threatened) convinced Netflix into paying them for full speeds to their customers. It is a very good, and scary, look into a possible future.
The next and major long term reason why net neutrality is needed is because it fosters growth for businesses and equals the playing field for everyone. If you wanted to open a video streaming platform, the last thing you need to worry about is having to pay an ISP to LET you use the full connection speed that you paid for! If you bought a fast sports car and learned that you can’t go over 80mph on the race track or on the freeway unless you paid them extra money; I’d say you would be pretty mad. This is the kind of realistic future we could be living in.
This leads me to my last point, what can you do to help fight back against this. The biggest thing you could do is to call and email your local representative and inform them you are opposed to this. While you’re contacting them. You might want to tell them that you don’t like the recent vote approving ISP’s to sell your internet search history, everything from medical, financial, personal, and even those sites you may go on late at night. (There is an effort to re-introduce similar legislation to override this poor decision they made.) I would highly recommend going here to see what the EFF has to say about this and what they would recommend doing.
Hopefully I have informed you on what Net Neutrality is and why it is important and not some kind of hippy crap that nerds talk about (or whatever you might have thought it was about). If you have any thoughts on the matter, feel free to tweet me @bl4ckneon on twitter.