Simply put, net neutrality is the principle that ISPs must treat all data in the same manner without discriminating between them, meaning that it encompasses a wide range of scenarios. For example, net neutrality is the reason that an ISP can’t throttle the speed on file sharing programs, which is something that Comcast has done in the past. Likewise, net neutrality is the reason that an ISP can’t throttle the speed on a competing service so as to promote its own, which is something that AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and other ISPs have been caught doing in the past. Unfortunately, the 3 Republican commissioners for the FCC voted to repeal the United States’s previous policy on net neutrality in December of 2017, with the result that US consumers are now much more vulnerable to been taken advantage of by their ISPs.
How Might the End of Net Neutrality Impact Your Finances?
Since net neutrality covers such a wide range of scenarios, it should come as no surprise to learn that the end of net neutrality could impact a consumer’s finances in a wide range of manners. In some cases, these possibilities will be direct in nature, whereas in other cases, they will be much more round-bout.
First and foremost, ISPs could start offering different Internet service plans with different speeds for different apps and services. For example, an ISP might start throttling the speeds on streaming media unless the consumer is willing to pay more for an Internet service plan that will offer them faster speeds for such services. Technically, such Internet service plans would offer consumers increased choice, but it should be mentioned that increased choice is not necessarily a good thing from the perspective of consumers. After all, this particular increase of choice would not provide them with better results but instead enable the ISPs to extract more value out of them.
Second, it is important to note that ISPs might have an impact on consumer finances through a more round-about manner as well. Simply put, ISPs might start charging online service providers fees for not throttling their speeds. In a lot of cases, those online service providers might handle the increased cost by offloading some of it onto their customers, which means higher prices for said individuals. Furthermore, it should be noted that in the long run, this could have a detrimental impact on innovation. After all, bigger and better-established businesses can afford such costs whereas start-ups cannot, meaning that the end of net neutrality could mean higher barriers of entry for businesses interested in breaking into an existing market by imposing greater costs on them. Something that could hinder consumers by reducing the benefits that they expect to collect from the ongoing innovation that is driving the continuing expansion of online services.
The one bright point is that the fight for net neutrality is still ongoing. There are states that are interested in maintaining net neutrality, whether because their economic interests rely on it or because they want to protect the well-being of their residents. Whatever the case, there are going to be legal challenges to the repeal of the United States’s previous net neutrality policy, which represent further chances for the principle to be saved. As a result, it seems probable that the ISPs won’t be making their moves until the legal challenges have been resolved one way or the other because they are not stupid enough to incur the opprobrium unless they are relatively confident that they can get away with it, which should come as a small measure of relief for people who are concerned about seeing immediate consequences from the December vote.
At this point in time, the full extent of the impact of the end of net neutrality on consumers remains to be seen. After all, it is a complicated matter, meaning that it will take time to understand the effects. However, what is certain is that consumers will be impacted in some manner in the time to come. Some telecommunications companies have promised that there will be no changes for consumers, but considering how they have violated net neutrality even when there were rules to prevent such occurrences, their word is perhaps not the most trustworthy thing that can be found out there.