Trump’s FCC is Ready to Kill the Internet by Ending Net Neutrality
The internet is about to become pay cable and Netflix is probably dead. Welcome to 2017.
Up until now, the internet has basically been a free-for-all. You pay for your service and you get to do whatever you want -- whether that's watching Netflix, trading stocks or downloading porn -- at the speed you pay for. That's all over now that the FCC is set to end the Obama-era net-neutrality rules.
Back in 2014, a U.S. court of appeals decision threw the whole structure of the internet as we know it in jeopardy. All of a sudden, people became very familiar with the term "net neutrality," which is a set of FCC-imposed rules on how ISP's (internet service providers -- Comcast, Verizon, etc.) manage the delivery of their internet service.
Under the Obama-era renewal of those rules, the internet continued to be pretty well protected from corporate tampering and price-gouging. It truly is an open internet. Once those rules are gone, a terrifying amount of control will be awarded to those companies. What does all of this mean for you? Well, let's run a worst case scenario for you:
You spend most of your time streaming movies on Netflix. However, your ISP owns a service that competes with Netflix, so they can slow down the speed at which Netflix is delivered to you (making your viewing experience horribly laggy)... or they could just block the service from you entirely.
How likely is this scenario? VERY. ISPs have complained about how much bandwidth streaming services like Netflix eat up for years. If the FCC eliminates net neutrality, you can definitely say goodbye to Netflix and chill.
Sounds fun, right? What about this:
Your favorite website is Huffington Post. You went there every day prior to your ISP's new tiered internet packaging. You couldn't afford the Unlimited Package and the more reasonably-priced Basic Internet Package doesn't include access to certain "premium websites" like Huffington Post.
Yeah, they'll be able to turn the Internet into a "Pay Cable" system now. We're not saying it's going to happen, but when was the last time you remember a corporation giving you something for free when they could just as easily make you pay through the nose for it? That's what is on the horizon thanks to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who said this in a statement today:
"Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet ... Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate."
Pai's replacement rules will see a vote on December 14th and are expected to pass the Republican majority FCC with ease.
WARNING: I'm about to put on my tin foil hat and fire off a hot take -- so this is the point in the article where you'll either want to strap in or hit eject.
This move on net neutrality stands in stark opposition to statements made by Trump's Department of Justice earlier in regards to the merger of Time Warner and AT&T. The DOJ is suing over the merger, because they are worried that:
"if AT&T were allowed to buy Time Warner, the combined company could raise fees for Time Warner content to pay-TV competitors such as Comcast and Charter. That could drive up costs for consumers, or prod them into switching to AT&T's own pay-TV services to access the programming they want." [source: Wired]
Driving up costs and consumer's ability access to content seems to be a big concern when the company that owns CNN is involved, but why isn't this a concern with the internet?
The way I see it, there are few reasons this is happening:
- Ending net neutrality allows for corporate control over information. This is just the next step in this administration's ongoing battle against the first amendment, but it's arguably the biggest.
- Certain ISPs have a lot of pull in Washington.
- Obama supported the last set of net neutrality rules, which were put into place by the FCC chairman he appointed. Whether it's allowing waste to be dumped in the rivers or trophy hunting of endangered species, Trump's administration has made one thing clear -- it doesn't matter how much sense the policy makes. If Obama had a hand in it -- it's gone.
Rest in peace, internet. It's been real.
Editor's note: This article contains portions of a previously written article on the end of net neutrality when it was jeopardized by a U.S. Court of Appeal decision in 2014. Several of the examples and arguments used in that article re-appear in this one because they still hold up and I'm too lazy to come up with better ones. Besides, we only have so much time left to use the internet as we see fit. I'm not going to waste it coming up with new reasons why a thing that was dumb in 2014 is still dumb in 2017.