Over the past year, there have been a lot of tech articles on Net Neutrality, and why people are angry that it may be going away. There is plenty of outrage and indignation from the tech community, as shown by the comments section the FCC put up on their website. As of July 15, so many comments were posted, it broke the website, and they had to extend the deadline. This is great, but most average people don’t know, or care what Net Neutrality is, and why it is important.
I’m going to try and keep it simple, as most tech savvy people (myself included) tend to get a bit long winded, when discussing something technical, that they are passionate about. John Oliver did a great job of boiling it down on his HBO show, Last Week Tonight (NSFW due to language.)
The idea of Net Neutrality is this. All websites currently have the same ability for customers to access them. If you are on Youtube, you have the same access as the person next door to you, provided you have the speed available. All carriers have to allow the same amount of available bandwidth (speed) to every website. This is essentially what happens with various electric companies. They all use the same lines, but you can choose who you want to work with and you still get the same service. Cable, and Broadband providers in the US feel that they shouldn’t have to share, and that even though faster speeds don’t cost them any more than slower speeds, they would like media providers, like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Google, and others to pay for their site visitors to use the site faster than others. The best way to describe this would be essentially the state charging cities for the ability to allow their citizens to use the left lane of the highway, even though it is already there.
If Net Neutrality fails, and unfortunately, it looks like special interests will get their way with it, a host of things will change. Firstly, the prices you pay for services such as Netflix, Hulu, Skype, MLB, and other sites that host video, will rise dramatically, as the content providers will have to pay more to allow customers to use their sites with any reliability. Other free sites and apps, such as Pandora and I Heart Radio, may end up having to charge for content, as simple commercial content may no longer be enough. Websites that people like to go to, such as Facebook, will also have to pay a premium, as they see a major amount of traffic, and are ripe for the picking. That’s right tell your Mum Mum that she can’t play candy crush anymore without paying for it (although there may be an unintended benefit that we no longer have to suffer the game invites…Sorry Mum Mum. I love you.)
In the end, the end of Net Neutrality is the end of a free and unfettered Internet. Startups like Kiva, Kickstarter, and others that have done so much good and caused innovation will be stifled just due to being popular. The more people who want to see your website, the more you will have to pay, and the more they will have to pay. Telecom companies are trying to have the American people pay for something that already exists, and that they already have, they now just have to pay to keep from losing it. If that’s not legalized extortion, I don’t understand the meaning of the word. Email your Congressional Official, spread the word in plain English, if Verizon, Comcast, and others get their way, the Internet as we know it will be gone.