Net Neutrality is confusing. All the hoopla gives the impression that it’s a good thing, and the degradation of it through shoddy legislation is a bad thing for consumers. Even with it in place, however, companies like Netflix and Hulu are known to pay providers like Time Warner and Verizon for better bandwidth to their domains.
So what does net neutrality mean for the average person?
It’s as simple as looking at your old landline phone and cable bills. Those packages and minute tracking details could very well end up on your Internet bill. Here are the problems we face, based on a sordid history with the cable and phone companies in the 20th century.
1. Package Pricing
What if you had to buy a video streaming package along with a social media package, a music package, a news package, a lifestyle package, etc.? You can’t just buy HBO or Showtime a la carte from the cable company. If they had it their way, the Internet would be categorized, and you’d be charged for access to different sections.
Net Neutrality, along with a variety of antitrust rules, keep our Internet access from devolving into that of, say, North Korea or China. Sure our activity is monitored, but at least we can freely access information. I have the same chance of reaching your attention as some huge conglomerate, and that’s always been the underlying beauty of the Internet.
2. Quality Throttling
Have you hit your data limit on your cellphone or WiFi plan? They throttle the data pretty quickly on the prepaid plans, and on the monthly subscription models where you’re locked in for a year or two, you get hit with major overages pretty quickly. Cable companies already rolled out overage charges. It’s only a matter of time before they find more ways to squeeze more money out of you.
You’ll also be forced into a cable package, despite desperately wanting to cut the cords. Most ISP’s are cable and phone companies that learned to survive on digital business models. Those that didn’t believe early on and invest in bandwidth fell to the wayside (MCI Worldcom, anyone?). As long as they lose customers, utility customers will continue to raise prices and fees on Internet customers to make up for it.
3. Higher Service Charges
Once a company gets used to charging you a fee, they start adding more and more on until someone fines them to stop them. Time Warner and Comcast are already pushing Baby Bell level monopoly acquisitions, and the FCC and FTC need to keep an eye on this sector, as mergers and acquisitions on this level are reminiscent of the Worldcom and Countrywide days.
For you, this will mean unknown service charges and taxes on your bills will be subtly raised. Your bill will end up with an additional 50% increase in the monthly amount. You’ll continue paying this happily, never realizing that your rights are being violated and you’re being price gouged. Even if you recognize it, you won’t be able to do much about it, except grin and bear it ISP’s have pretty well monopolized the market.
In addition, it won’t be long until businesses pass the price of free WiFi on to the consumer. Places like McDonald’s, Home Depot, and Barnes & Noble that happily provide free service will find a way to start charging for it, and that will become the trend.
4. More Invasive Advertising
Where did you hear you can’t trust the Internet? From a T.V. commercial…for insurance?
Net Neutrality is the only thing standing between you and invasive ads on an unimaginable scale. If your ISP could directly access you, you can no longer be Anonymous online. Your every movement could be tracked by your ISP, which is currently not as easy as it sounds. Your life would be controlled by advertisers, marketing, and propaganda even more than it is today.
You could end up seeing an ad on your Glass, smartwatch, smartphone, TV, or hear it on the radio for bacon at the exact moment you’re craving it, because your entire smartlife is being monitored in a way that’s currently not happening. Big Brother would arrive very quickly with the wall down.
5. Less Privacy and Protection
This means tracking you would be a breeze. Just so you understand how skip tracing is currently performed, through financial records, government (DMV, Court, etc.) databases, and other forms of public and private records, a debt collector, for example, could track the location, employment history, and other statistics of you, your relatives, and neighbors.
A consumer stalker that wanted to find you can pay $100 a year to Intelius and track you based on a phone number, email address, website, name, or any number of details. Even Facebook and Google+ are great ways for consumers to track people. I’ve d0xed many people with just these sites because of the link to their contact details or by playing six degrees of separation online.
Imagine an Internet where all I’d need to do is crack your ISP. IP tracking is one of the easiest ways to locate someone, and the government backdoors would be on a level you don’t want to think about. You’d have less privacy online than you do in the middle of Wal-Mart, and that’s even with the People of Wal-Mart website going strong.
6. Compromised Content
Losing Net Neutrality would be most noticeable in the content of the Internet. Right now someone like Phil and Lindsey DeFranco can reach an audience as large as any Real Housewife or Honey Boo Boo. Chris Hardwick and Marc Maron can turn podcasts into T.V. shows by competing with both major market and satellite radio.
Without net neutrality none of this independent creativity would be possible. You would only be able to post on social websites, and any website you created for commercial or professional purposes would be more expensive than a marijuana dispensary to get off the ground, and you’d be raped for content by the larger conglomerates. Net Neutrality is why Davids like you and I can compete with Goliaths like Facebook or Viacom.
If not for net neutrality, they’d have us waking up to commercials for coffee we can’t afford. You couldn’t create your own website without paying a fee, and social media would be much more closely monitored and regulated. Even the Huffington Post would still have an AOL Time Warner tag at the bottom of this page.
Unless you want to lose your life to the machines, support net neutrality and Save the Internet.