You’ve probably been hearing the term “net neutrality” get thrown around quite a bit lately. Net neutrality, as you might be wondering, is a term used to describe the behavior of Internet service providers (ISPs) as concerns the way that they deliver data to their clients. This also concerns something called “vertical integration.”
To steal a glimmering example from the pages of Jack Donaghy, imagine that, say, Frito Lay—the crafter tasty snacks like Doritos and Cheetos–was owned by Proctor & Gamble—the powerhouse behind Pepto-Bismol. If you can’t see why that might be bad, let me spell it out for you: they might be tempted to mix some laxative ingredients into their delicious crunchy snacks in a way to boost Pepto-revenues. Get it? Vertical integration.
This more or less represents the reality of net neutrality. The net neutrality rules were established by the FCC back in 2010 to curb the efforts of ISPs (Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, etc.) from influencing the flow of data by blocking and slowing down particular sources. The net neutrality law forced these companies to behave like a utility in that they could not show special preference to any particular websites or streams of communication for any reason (provided it was not harmful). All bandwidth had to be allocated equally—as per government mandate.
Since the original passing of the net neutrality law, the goons at Comcast and AT&T have been pushing to appeal it. On Tuesday January 14th, 2014, a federal court ruled that these laws do not apply to ISPs as they are not “common carriers.” How will this affect you? In the worst way possible.
You want to use YouTube—because it’s free, and great, but suddenly it takes forever to buffer any of the videos. But if you use AT&T’s paid service, however, you get to watch as much as you like and at speeds as fast you like. Do you see what’s happening? These companies, in their perpetual chase of the almighty greenback, will use dirty tactics like this to squeeze every last penny out of you, the consumer.
As of Tuesday, companies can pick and choose from which websites they wish to deliver data—and they’re going to charge those websites for that privilege. That’s going to seriously hurt the number of free websites, apps, and services that exist across the Web—driving many to bankruptcy and so siphoning the power of the American Internet from the control of the people to the control of a rich few—whose only desire is to take more of your money.
The end results of this fight are dubious at best. My prediction, however, stems from the adage that necessity is the mother of invention. I believe that this action that is rooted only in greed will ultimately be the bullet that shoots these companies in their proverbial feet.
Google is breaking out its ultra-fast 1000mb/s fiber networks, and they’re a good start to shutting these fools down. However the idea is to keep the flow of information in the hands of the people. People are going to start working and developing and programming like never before, designing and creating new ways to free the Internet from the vice grips of big business. I don’t yet know what they look like, but this outrage is fueling a fire that is turning gears. The wheels are moving. Get involved.