Last week was a landmark time for all denizens of the internet! Why you ask? Because the FCC passed Net Neutrality Laws! Now there’s a very good chance that many of you are familiar with the concept of Net Neutrality. It has been talked about all over the place, most notably on the John Oliver Show who appealed to trolls everywhere to post public feedback comments on the FCC’s website. So many comments were posted that the site actually went down under the strain!
But what do these laws mean for the average consumer? Honestly, in the short term, you won’t see much of a change to your service. However, just because you don’t see a change, doesn’t mean that one isn’t occurring. I’ll give you a simple example. Internet service providers are frequently cable providers as well; some providers like for example, Comcast. Comcast owns both NBC and a part of Hulu and thus has a vested interest in you using their services versus another source like say, Netflix. As such, Comcast can actively throttle or slow your connection to Netflix specifically without affecting your other internet activities. This in turn makes you think that Netflix is doing a terrible job and switching to use a different service like Hulu or Comcast’s “On Demand” service.
Likewise, Comcast can also essentially turn around and extort Netflix to pay up some serious cash if they want their customers to have a good experience. This is exactly what happened and it was around this time a year ago that a deal was reached between both companies. Of course, this means that prices for Netflix subscribers will inevitably go up (the company will pass on costs to consumers in order to maintain profitability). Well, I have good news for you, under the newly passed rules, this can no longer happen! Internet providers have to treat access to every site equally, with no priority.
Ill give you another example. Certain providers like, Comcast (again!) give you a bandwidth limit every month. A website could potentially pay money to Comcast so that visiting it would not contribute towards your monthly broadband limit, making it more likely that you would visit it. This could be doubly beneficial to Comcast if it owned part of that website. Again, under the new Net Neutrality rules, this kind of behavior is no longer allowed or legal!
Additionally, these new rules classify Internet providers under Title II of the Communications Act. This means that providers are treated the same way as telephone/mobile Carriers. Essentially this makes them accountable to standards that can be applied across the country. It also means that consumers are now in a stronger position when it comes to their privacy and complaints against the industry. There are also provisions that govern who has access to things like poles (as in telephone poles) which are necessary to bring service into new areas in many places. In the long term, this means that companies like Google will find it easier to expand their fiber based service across the country.
There’s quite a few other provisions covered in Title II that are important to the industry but won’t necessarily directly impact the customer. For further reading, you can check out this article here. Essentially, this is a very, very good thing. It guarantees the internet will continue to grow and not necessarily be constrained by powerful corporate interests. Even if you see no change in your service, you should still have a little celebratory drink because this is very much a victory for the little guy.
What are YOUR thoughts on Net Neutrality? Let us know in the comments below!