June 15, 2018
The Federal Communications Commission’s decision to repeal net neutrality officially went into effect on June 11. That means Americans are now subject to the commercial decisions of big internet service providers. Without net neutrality rules, these companies can pick and choose which sites, applications and services they provide fast access to and those to which they provide slow (or no) access.
Effectively, the internet service providers can decide to cut access to your site. Or (perhaps if you’re a company with a large-enough budget and pay the internet service providers a special fee) they can assign your website super-fast access. It’ll be like having open traffic lanes for those who can pay and tollgate jams for those who can’t. The internet service providers are also legally within their rights to charge users fees per site on top of their monthly internet bill.
This is not the internet as we have known it—where the only obstacles to having a fast-loading site were your own bad web-development (too many large files per page, for example) or a consistently slow hosting server.
These factors are choices made by a website owner and are under his/her control. The new law takes that control out of the website owner’s hands and puts it in the hands of internet service providers—who may grant special privileges to clients who pay a premium or they may make their own choices, favoring one website over another.
To legitimize what are essentially going to be added tolls at the level of internet service providers is not that much different from the situation which previously existed in print media or television. Those with bigger budgets could afford to get their message in front of more (or more monied) eyes and ears.
The internet, however, has thus far managed to develop without the added tolls that are now about to be legally permissible. Hosting for a small website has been affordable even to individuals; small website development has been affordable even to individuals; internet connectivity with which to browse the web has been affordable even to individuals—and companies involved in providing internet-based services have been able to operate sustainably.
As it has been proven possible to have internet services provided without handing the controls over to the most highly capitalized entities, net neutrality seems worth maintaining, no?
Consider some examples of what you might see in the future if net neutrality is not restored:
Big pharmaceutical companies will pay internet service providers to provide much higher bandwidth for their websites while providers and advocates of natural health care, unless they can match the higher fees paid by the pharmaceutical companies, will see their websites reduced to painfully slow upload experiences for users (and we all know that users click out of sites that won’t load quickly).
Informational websites on topics like the origins of the universe or climate change—websites from which children learn about the world—will be assigned faster or slower bandwidth depending on which point of view gets the most financial backing.
News outlets with rich, powerful backers may pay internet service providers to provide much higher bandwidth for their websites while news outlets not favored by the one percent will have to make do with slower bandwidth.
Politicians running for office will need to use campaign funds to try and secure high bandwidth for their websites. Draw your own conclusions.
As I write this, there remains a chance that the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality will be overturned by the Congressional Review Act. Democratic and Republican senators came together last month to vote yes on that act. Now, all that is needed is a yes vote from the House of Representatives.
If you value a return to net neutrality and haven’t already signed a petition to support such a “yes” vote, there is a petition form here: STOPTHEFCC.NET.