This past Thursday, the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality which reclassified broadband to a common carrier under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This was a win for large businesses and as many are calling it, a loss for free speech and equality to access of information.
So what does this decision mean?
Many believe this decision will lead to ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ lanes of the Internet. This decision gives the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like AT&T and Cox all the power. They can raise and lower prices as they see fit. Much like how your cable bill works (some of you may not remember cable because you ‘cut the cord’ years ago in anger over all the charges for services you didn’t want or need), ISPs can put high demand services in a different cost package than other sites you may need (think movie channels like HBO and STARZ cost more). You want access to Facebook, Google, Netflix, etc. So does everyone else. Well, the ISPs can determine the price you’re willing to pay for fast access to these sites. Desperate to read the latest installment on that indie web comic you just discovered? Well, that’s not in such high demand so you’ll have to pay a hefty fee to get access to the more general, low demand web with the same great connection you have now. Your indie web comic would be deemed in the ‘slow lane’ while the high demand, ready to pay to keep themselves on top sites like Facebook and Amazon would be considered ‘fast lane’.
Who will be hit the hardest?
Tough to say. NPR had a great story on how education will be impacted by this decision. Schools rely heavily on access to free resources online. This is especially important to schools in lower socio-economic situations who don’t have the financial resources to spend.
And who’s the winner in this decision?
It looks like the ISPs and big business to me. Companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon are not going to suffer much from this decision. Why? Because they can afford to pay for their services to be readily available to the masses. I doubt anyone will have to suffer a slow internet speed or horrible connection when they access their Facebook page or when they try to buy something off Amazon.
Now what about those startups and small businesses online who don’t have the capital to ensure their connection speeds? I’ve read that sites like Etsy will suffer greatly from this repeal. Think of your local businesses with online stores. Will this help of hurt them?
I’ve read a lot of different articles on this topic and to be completely honest, I have yet to hear an argument in support of the repeal that makes sense to me. I could be missing something, but I just don’t see the benefit of rolling back net neutrality. We all know the Internet is far from perfect. But is this really the direction we want to go? What does the future hold for the Internet now that net neutrality is gone? There is talk of moving the fight to Congress, but I don’t see it changing anytime soon.
For further reading, check out some of these articles:
- How a Deregulated Internet Could Hurt America’s Classrooms – NPR
- FIGHT: The WIRED Guide to Net Neutrality – WIRED
- The FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules are Gone. Now This is What Could Happen to the Web – Washington Post
- Ending Net Neutrality will Save the Internet, Not Destroy It – Fox News