After signaling that it would for months, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday revealed its plan to dismantle regulations that ensure equal access to the Internet, a concept known as “net neutrality.”
In layman’s terms, net neutrality helps keep everything fair on the internet. Net neutrality keeps big companies like Time Warner or Comcast from paying more to have their content delivered faster than competitors that don’t have the resources to pay up.
If this bill is passed, that protection – fairness – will disappear. Large companies will be allowed to essentially buy their way into the “fast” lane, leaving everyone else behind in the “slow” lane.
As John Oliver from Last Week Tonight describes back in 2014 in this video clip, “ensures that all data has to be treated equality, no matter who created it”.
So why does this matter to the cord cutters?
Easy: Services like Comcast or TWC will be allowed to pay more to have their content delivered to you fast – because they have the resources and money to do so. Crackle, Pluto and other free-to-use streaming services do not have the bank accounts to “pay to play”, therefore, their content will be slower than everyone else’s, relegating them to second-tier status.
Furthermore, the concept for dismantling net neutrality is being lobbied for hard by representatives of all the major Cable TV companies because it will allow them to charge more for the use of their internet, and get their streaming services prioritized over others via the “fast lane”.
The head of the FCC, Ajit Pai, was expected to change laws that benefited the large telcos and ISPs, which this new bill finally does. The FCC Chairman claims that eliminating net neutrality will lead to more investment and competition in the internet service provider industry.
How bad can it really get though?
Before you say: “Oh, Comcast won’t do something like this…”, take a look at this graph. In late 2013, Netflix discovered their download speeds on the Comcast ISP were dropping to unsustainable levels, making their content super slow for many of their customers. Netflix and Comcast eventually came to an agreement on a direct connection deal in February 2014, and look at their download speeds thereafter:
The result makes it clear that Comcast decided to shakedown Netflix for more money because Netflix’s content was taking up a good bit of their ISP’s bandwidth.
So, what can we do to stop this?
Well, the FCC has so graciously provided enough time to gather public comments (read: complaints). The vote on this bill is December 7th, so there is still time to contact your local lawmaker to ask they vote against it.
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