If you’re like me, you hate paying tolls. I already pay taxes for infrastructure and adding a few bucks every time I take a certain route irritates the hell out of me. Thankfully there are few roads tolled in the state of Washington (although that may change soon). Imagine having to pay tolls to use certain cyber roads on the internet. Doesn’t sound appealing does it? Well if the current commissioners of the FCC have their way, get ready to pay some tolls!
I pay a given amount of money each month to Frontier for my onramp at home to the internet. I also subscribe to a few streaming services like Netflix, CBS All Access, and Hulu. Thanks to current net neutrality laws, Frontier can’t limit my access to anything I may want to seek on the information superhighway. I can stream Netflix or Hulu with the exact same speed as any other website. But Frontier and other telecommunications company have the ability “throttle” or limit how fast I access certain websites. They could even block sites. Imagine Fox News was the only news site AT&T customers could access. Again because of current laws, they cannot do that.
If the FCC overturns the laws passed two years ago, I could see a huge change in how I access certain websites. Frontier could decide to lower the speed at which I access Netflix making streaming content very difficult. They could do this for any website, including this blog! Why would they do this? The telecommunications companies insist that Netflix, YouTube, and other major sites jam the “roads” making it difficult for them to provide access to everything as fast as consumers want it. Verizon and the others want to charge these big content providers a fee to offset maintaining the “roads” because so much of their content passes through the connections they provide. They want a toll to maintain the infrastructure.
Show of hands: Who thinks that toll money will actually be invested in maintaining infrastructure?
If these laws are overturned, what’s to stop them from charging every content provider? I imagine Netflix and Google could find the funds to pay off the telecoms. If Netflix pays the fee, they will simply turn that fee over to the consumer, which would be me. I’d see a rate hike on my Netflix subscription fees; a toll if you will. But what about my Orbital Platform? Will my hosting service for this site make the payment and thus raise the rates I pay for hosting? If so, it could price me out and I’d have to shut down my platform! These fees or “tolls” could price out start-ups or smaller content providers from competing.
This country prides itself on being a free and open society and we created the world wide web to reflect that. Net neutrality gives everyone a fair shot, a level playing field to compete. It also makes it possible for many voices to be heard. Because so many of our larger news sources are owned by so few the potential to restrict information is overwhelming especially if net neutrality is overturned. Overturning these laws could set this country further down an Orwellian future. What is to stop these telecoms from restricting access to information contradictory to their interests? Right now net neutrality stops them. Now more than ever we need to be vigilant where our freedoms are concerned. Rarely are they taken away all at once. Overturning net neutrality is a step in the wrong direction and we’ve taken too many steps the wrong way already.