In February of 2015, shit felt sweet when it came to the topic of net neutrality. Under the Obama administration, the FCC passed the then-new net neutrality rules in a 3-2 vote that was split along party lines, effectively making it so Internet Service Providers weren't allowed to give content providers special treatment. At the time, many felt that the FCC viewed the internet the same way many Americans did: open for all (at least for those who had the ability to access it).
Today, everything appears to have changed. Under Trump's administration, the FCC has repealed those same net neutrality rules. It was under another 3-2 vote, which was also split along party lines. If it feels like we've taken two steps back, add a couple more steps back that lead to an unseen stairwell that you then tumble down, almost breaking your neck. It's an important moment in an ongoing debate that could fuck up the way you use the internet on the regular.
What is net neutrality?
Net neutrality, essentially, is the restriction of throttling speeds or limiting content to internet consumers. Many net neutrality supporters subscribe to the doctrine that "all internet traffic should be treated equally." In the past, internet service providers like Comcast were shown to have secretly slowed down the speeds of certain customers using P2P (peer-to-peer) programs to share files.
The debate has been going on since 2005, when AT&T fixed their corporate lips to let it be known that they wanted to prioritize faster speeds for certain companies, for a fee. That's some foul shit, right?
How does the repeal of net neutrality impact your life?
The FCC's decision to repeal net neutrality could definitely switch up how you operate even the most simple tasks in your regular web-based life. Did you click on this story (or any article from your favorite website) via Twitter or Facebook? As of right now, you more than likely didn't have to pay any kind of "social media plan" from your internet service provider, did you? Without net neutrality in your life, that could definitely be the case. No, seriously, it's already happening in Portugal, where wireless carrier Meo has an insanely tiered plan for different apps their customers use. Do you want to use music apps like Spotify or SoundCloud on your phone in Portugal? That'll be about $6 a month for the Music plan. A fan of YouTube or Netflix? The Video plan will be another $6. Same for their Social and Messaging app plans. That's roughly $30 tacked on to whatever you're paying for the service a month.. .and that's just for your smartphone!
It can have other effects on you, though. Companies would now, if they so desired, have the ability to give certain customers faster speeds to watch programs on services like HBO. That means AT&T might give more priority to a service than a company like Verizon, and most of the time, the reason for doing so would be monetary. You might end up being whole minutes behind the timeline (which you'd be paying more for to begin with) during episodes of Insecure.
Who should be pissed off about today's vote?
You and everyone around you. So far, we've seen a number of companies voice their disdain for the decision.
We’re disappointed in the decision to gut #NetNeutrality protections that ushered in an unprecedented era of innovation, creativity & civic engagement. This is the beginning of a longer legal battle. Netflix stands w/ innovators, large & small, to oppose this misguided FCC order.— Netflix US (@netflix) December 14, 2017
“This fight isn’t over. With our allies and our users, we will turn to Congress and the courts to fix the broken policies.” - @DenelleDixon on what’s next in the fight to ensure real #netneutrality rules: https://t.co/ePau1etstD— Mozilla (@mozilla) December 14, 2017
It's great to see the larger entities on the internet backing net neutrality, but truth be told, it's artists and smaller businesses that are getting the shaft. The Washington Post points out the reality of what happens to smaller websites. Consider this: Google searches are hindered by slower sites. If certain websites are being given priority speeds over others, that will have a direct impact on where they place on Google searches, regardless of if their content is the best, or even just accurate.
No, nope, this is the exact opposite of what will likely happen. Facebook, Amazon, Netflix etc. will buy their lane, and will remain nominally free. Losing net neutrality would probably benefit Facebook more than any other company—even more than the ISPs. This isn’t 2003 anymore. https://t.co/U18PwbXVzN— zeynep tufekci (@zeynep) December 14, 2017
That doesn't stop with news and other entities who can pay to play the internet service provider's new games. Anyone selling products on Etsy or Tee Republic could see interest in their sales diminish as the larger retailers who, again, can pony up to pay for "regular" speeds, will box them out.
What the hell can we do about this?
Well, you might need to get down on the SIM hopping craze that's going down in Europe. If you've watched The Wire, you should be familiar with the idea: you have different SIM cards, similar to what Stringer Bell did to make his business and his "business" calls, but this would be for, say, one SIM card that has Facebook on it for free, then switching it out for a SIM that gives you free WhatsApp. Sounds like a nightmare? That's because it is.
Mozilla, who created the Firefox browser, says the fight is far from over. They are looking to take the concerns of many to Congress "to fix the broken policies." Some lawyers are looking for ways to fight via lawsuits, although that won't happen overnight. That's because while the FCC's repeal went down today, it can take a while for that to become an actual law, especially if these lawsuits result on the courts putting a stay on the FCC repeal. That could result in things going back to the way Obama set it up, or going back to the drawing board for an entirely new set of net neutrality rules.
FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn's closing remarks before the 3-2 vote to repeal Obama-era #NetNeutrality rules:— NBC News (@NBCNews) December 14, 2017
"What saddens me the most today is that the agency that is supposed to protect you is actually abandoning you." pic.twitter.com/HgJm36id4s
Right now? Internet like you've been interneting for as long as you've interneted. But stay woke: Big Business is outchea and it's coming for your net neutrality. Join the fight, or at the very least, be ready to ante up for your apps and bandwidth if the other shoe drops.