One of the biggest issues facing the tech industry today, is set to be debated by congress next month. I’m of course talking about net neutrality, or the principle that ISPs should treat all data on the internet the same. It guarantees that you can access whatever you like, whenever you like, without regard to application, service, or user. New FCC Chair Ajit Pai wants to change the very fiber of the internet, and it’ll definitely be for the worse. If the current protections we all enjoy are killed off, expect your ISP to hold even more power over your content. Companies like Comcast and AT&T, who are already doing everything they can to skirt the rules, will have zero incentive to do what’s best for the consumer. This isn’t just another way for big cable to milk more profit, this is an all out war on the consumer.
Leading the charge is the aforementioned Ajit Pai, a former Verizon Wireless lawyer, who now runs the most important communications bureau in the country. This situation gets a bit muddied because of this background in particular. It was basically his job to argue for, and defend one of the very companies that stands to benefit the most from this shift in policy. Tapped by President Donald Trump to lead the FCC, Pai has made no bones about his intent to destroy net neutrality.
Pai intends on rolling back a 2015 ruling that would classify the internet as a Title II utility. If this happens, ISPs will once again have unprecedented power and control over the performance of, and access to every service available online. This would happen by the FCC no longer having to strictly regulate ISPs, and instead that task would fall onto the FTC to enforce. The FTC would essentially be forced to rely on the “honor system” which is basically them sitting back and hoping service providers behave themselves. This is essentially like leaving your child in a room made of candy… Bad things will happen.
So what exactly are these bad things? Why does the loss of net neutrality have everyone so on edge? Simply put, companies will have nothing to prevent them from giving specific sites or services preferential treatment over others. Large companies could pay ISPs to prioritize their services over smaller services that can’t afford to pay. ISPs that own competing services could ensure their products have a clear competitive advantage over others. Things could get really chippy.
With more and more companies engaging in these “mega mergers” the market could get really small, and very expensive for the consumer. Imagine a world where AT&T owns Time Warner, and decides to either A) make HBO and exclusive AT&T property, or B) “Enhances” HBO so that it performs the absolute best on their network. In either of those scenarios, you’d essentially be forced to either become an AT&T customer, or pay even more to have access to HBO, or worst case scenario, you’d have to do both. This is the big deal with net neutrality. Less choice for consumers, more profit for big cable.
If you want to reach out to your local senator or congressperson, it’s as simple as sending an email. Here is a form that will actually send that email for you, and here is a direct link to the FCC website where you can also air your grievances.