Ever since the FCC announced the end of net neutrality, there has been a constant clamor as people and businesses wonder how the change would affect them at home and at work. Before we get into the discussion of what the repeal of net neutrality means for the average American, it is best that we gain at least a minimal perspicacity of what net neutrality is.
Net neutrality refers to an FCC-regulated principle that declares that all internet service providers treat all digital content the same — regardless to what type of content it is and with no consideration be given to what company or entity is hosting the content. Simply put, broadband service providers like Comcast and AT&T cannot preference the loading speed and performance of one site over another. Additionally, net neutrality does not allow ISPs to charge more for access to certain sites over others.
Net neutrality creates what has become known as the open internet. Net Neutrality was introduced as policy in 2015. The repeal of net neutrality has been pushed under the current administration. The FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, who was appointed by President Trump, has endorsed the repeal of net neutrality. It is interesting because Pai is a former staunch supporter of net neutrality.
Those who support the repeal believe that it will be good for competition; however, there are many, including myself who believe that it will impact access for those with limited financial resources. The internet has become a major pathway to information and resources; if those resources are bundled and priced in addition to paying for the broadband services, it could knock many people out of the box.
While there are multitudinous opinions as to what the repeal of net neutrality will mean for most people, it is still quite early in the game — too early to make long-term projections. While Pai has promised that he would not allow the throttling of services based on money, that is yet to be seen. There are people who are already complaining about performance issues. So many possibilities remain in limbo, but how you get online and how much it costs could change multiple times in the coming months.
One of the key concerns of opponents of the repeal centers on the idea that ISPs will start bundling internet content into categories and charging for bundles much in the manner that cable and satellite providers do networks and channels. If this happens, the open internet will be no more. You will have access to certain sites while being blocked from accessing others. If bundling does become a reality, it will likely present progressive bungle packages that offer varying magnitudes of access. Of course, the flagship package will likely provide unlimited access.
This can be prevented if people refused to participate or if one or two ISPs refuse to turn on their customers. If an ISP refused to exploit their customers for the cash grab that is developing, it would become the outlet for those people who refuse to be exploited. It the ISP has the capacity to take on the additional load, it would force the other providers to follow suit.
At a time in which internet communications are crucial for everything from work to learning, creating an environment in which more affluent households would have greater access to the internet is not ideal.
The repeal of net neutrality means that families and businesses could end up paying more money to the ISPs for less diverse content and poorer performance.
Another problem that looms is the dividing of data access based on the erroneous idea of data caps. Recent moves by certain ISPs over the last several days reveal that the concept of limited bandwidth is a myth used to charge more for access. The lack of regulation leaves the door open for ISPs to create slow lanes and fast lanes for certain types of content. Huge companies, such as Google, Netflix, and Facebook can afford to pay enormous fees to be placed in the fast lane, while smaller startups that are not able to pay those fees would end up in the fast lane.
When access to capital determines how you access and do business on the internet, it is doing anything but creating an optimal competitive environment.
Finally, ISPs who have direct interests or ownership in media entities would be able to give complete unbridled rein to their own media content — taking an extreme market advantage.