The implications of ending Net Neutrality are huge, and will be felt by everyone.
On Thursday, FCC chair Ajit Pai, a Trump appointee and former Verizon lawyer, lead the partisan 3-2 vote to change the Internet as we know it by ending Net Neutrality rules. The implications of deregulating and privatizing access to the Internet are huge, and will be felt by everyone.
Net Neutrality is a relatively simple concept. It required ISP’s to allow fair and equal access to all websites without censorship, or charging more for specific content to load faster.
Today’s rollback of those rules, implemented in 2015 by the Obama administration, means Internet access can be completely controlled by companies like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon. They can block access to competitor’s apps, news sites they don’t like, make some websites load slower than others, and charge more for streaming services like Netflix or Hulu.
Rolling Stone explains it this way;
Let’s say you are a regular user of Amazon, eBay and Etsy. Right now, you’ve got all those apps on your phone or laptop, and they all work pretty well. Pages load fast, orders go through right away. But you get your service through Verizon, and now, with its net neutrality shackles broken, Verizon is free to say to all three online retailers: Hey, if you want to be in the fast lane of the Internet, you will have to pay for our premium package. Amazon and eBay can afford to do this, but Etsy can’t….
It gets worse. Because under the new rules (or really, lack of any rules whatsoever), ISPs won’t just be free to charge more for better tiers of access, they will also be free to block access to whatever part of the Internet they feel serves their financial interests. AT&T could cut a deal making Microsoft Bing its default search engine, and block Google entirely.
It’s hard to see how repealing Net Neutrality rules benefit consumers and easy to see how ISP’s can use their new-found freedom to discriminate and monetize your browsing history to bolster their profits.
Corporate control of the Internet did not happen by accident. It’s been the Holy Grail of ISP lobbying efforts for more than a decade, and one they have been willing to pay for.
According to Fast Company,
Between 2008 and early 2017, the three big internet providers–Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T–and their trade organization, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, had spent $572 million lobbying federal lawmakers on subjects that include net neutrality.
Industry analyst Glenn O’Donnell told the Washington Post,
You and I and everyone else who uses the Internet for personal use will see some changes in pricing models. For most of us, I expect we will pay more. Service bundles (e.g., social media package, streaming video package) will likely be bolted on to basic transport for things like web surfing and email.
If competitive market forces applied, consumers who were unhappy with rising prices could simply buy their Internet service from another provider. But in rural areas and other locations outside of major cities, there are no choices. That means lower income people could lose access to the Internet if it got so expensive, they simply couldn’t afford it anymore.
What Pai did today takes the idea of profits over people to a level few could have imagined in 21 century America.
ISP’s claim Net Neutrality rules were cutting into their ability to innovate and profits. But AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast are hardly starving their stockholders. This is about censorship for profit and power.
After Thursday’ FCC vote, Fortune wrote,
Let’s turn to news dissemination through the Internet. Without net neutrality, AT&T could threaten to place the Wall Street Journal and New York Times in the slow lane unless they paid a fee. If the Journal paid but the Times did not, it would be a massive advantage for the Journal. Many readers would not know why the Times content was delayed and would likely blame the newspaper’s staff. This would be a disaster for the news media.
With the FCC’s vote, the Internet as we know it is over.
Lawsuits to restore Net Neutrality are already forthcoming. A lot is riding on whether or not they succeed.