The End of Net Neutrality?

The Federal Communications Commission is going to vote on December 14 regarding whether they’re going to abandon the concept of “net neutrality,” which became Federal policy under President Obama in 2015.

According to FCC chairman Ajit Pai, eliminating net neutrality will be “getting government out of the Internet,” as though that is necessarily a bad thing.

net neutralityOn the contrary, eliminating net neutrality will be a bad thing, unless, of course, you own a lot of stock in companies that provide Internet service.

At the moment, Internet providers must treat all traffic that they deliver to their customers equally.  That’s the law, and that’s current FCC policy.  But that could change, and it could mean that you may lose some services that you currently get via your Internet service provider.  Or, you might have to pay more money to get those services.

Right now, for instance, you can use the Internet to surf the Web, upload files to your Dropbox account, talk to someone via Skype, or watch a movie on Netflix or a TV program on Hulu.

You get to do all of those things by simply paying one monthly fee to your Internet Service Provider (ISP.)  You might, or might not, be able to do all of those things if the FCC eliminates net neutrality.

With net neutrality gone, your ISP will have a lot more flexibility regarding what they do with data you’d like to send or receive.  If Hulu pays money to your ISP, they might allow Hulu traffic to pass through their networks at full speed, while “throttling” the speed of Netflix, which could lead to lots of buffering problems.

Or the situation could be reversed.  Or your ISP could block both companies’ traffic completely unless you were willing to pay an additional fee each month for watching video.

Your ISP could express a preference for Vimeo over YouTube, or they could block both or charge a fee.

There is definite interest among ISPs for eliminating net neutrality, while there’s virtually none among consumers.  Yet, when the FCC solicited comments on the matter back in August, they received literally millions of comments supporting the idea of eliminating net neutrality.   Most of those comments turned out to be fake, and were submitted by bots.

It’s unlikely that consumers, who would either pay more money or have services limited by eliminating the net neutrality policy, were behind the fake comments.  In all likelihood, it’s the ISPs themselves who were behind it.

Again, the FCC’s position is that this gives people more “freedom” because government will stop interfering with commerce.  But part of the government’s job is to protect consumers, and clearly, net neutrality has been a policy that has worked in favor of consumers.

We’re in a new era however, and the current administration seems determined to turn everything into something that can be turned into a profitable venture.  Profitable for corporations, that is, rather than consumers, who have now had some 20+ years of using the Internet without interference from their ISPs.

We’ll see how it plays out.

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