The FCC has officially announced the end of net neutrality, handing over what is essentially control over the internet to major corporations and service providers including Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.
The consumer protections passed by the FCC in 2015 are being removed in a plan that the organization has oddly titled Restoring Internet Freedom Order. The plan says, among other claims, that it intends to end the government’s micro-managing of the internet. In turns, the FCC is expecting more transparency from service providers. Restoring Internet Freedom Order is set to be put to an official FCC vote on December 14 and it is expected to pass. When it does, many pro-net neutrality activists are calling it the end of the free and open internet. Here’s how it might affect you.
Net neutrality guards against internet service providers creating slow and fast internet speeds, asking websites to pay a premium to be in the ‘fast lane’. Now that changes. Presumably, larger corporations and brands such as Netflix and Amazon could pay a premium to have their websites run significantly faster than small business websites who can’t afford the same luxury. It also means service providers – most of which are attached to designated video streaming platforms – could prioritize their own content over that of the competition. The end of net neutrality could even mean service providers having the right to censor and block sites that are critical to them.
If the internet does end up with a slow lane and a fast lane, the corporations who intend to jump in the fast lane are likely going to make up those extra fees from changing the consumer more. Don’t be surprised if Netflix rates increase within the next two years accordingly. For that matter, any service – streaming, cloud-based, or otherwise – may have to increase their prices in order to cover these new fees. At its worst, it could also mean charging extra fees to users who want to connect a game console to their internet. Needless to say, the end of net neutrality puts the power into the hands of service providers who are left to essentially manipulate as they please.
Imagine having to pay for a bunch of extras you’ll never use. Just like the way that TV bundles are built, net neutrality means that the same practices can now be applied to internet packaging. For argument’s sake, it’s within a service provider’s power to create tiered bundles where, in order to access certain sites, a consumer will have no choice but to go premium. That means, in the future, in order to access a site like Netflix you may be forced to upgrade to a more expensive plan that you may not have otherwise gotten.
Throughout the years, the merits of net neutrality have been debated in the United States. By putting an end to net neutrality as we know it, suddenly the doors have been opened to a lot of provider-led manipulation. Years from now, we may be looking back on this period as the golden age of the internet, where any site was accessible by any one and at a decent speed. Time will tell the true extent of the consequences that doing away with net neutrality will have.