Internet Neutrality Matters
We are currently facing an ever more complex and fluid world; to survive it, one must be equipped with the ability to communicate at near light speed over any distance. As it happens, most of us in this country are lucky enough to have access to that near god-like ability. Without Net Neutrality, how would we compete with our friends in Trivia Crack? How else decide what new fashion or trend would cause us to simply die if we weren’t seen wearing it? How else would we know when our beloved experiment of a semi-social democracy was turning into a communist state of the semi-democratic?
Confused? Google it. Just don’t wait too long, because if the new Chairman of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) gets his way, you might have a little difficulty loading your browser.
Throughout this article and the subsequent series to follow, we will be delving into the ever more increasingly relevant, and considerable, subject of Net Neutrality, and the consequences of blindly following the leaders of organizations because they say it is for our own good.
Let’s start with the easy one. What is Net Neutrality? You may have heard this term more than once lately, and yet, it is inherently vague and seems to cause listeners to check out within seconds after hearing the phrase in a sentence, therefore many have no idea what it is even about in the first place. Are you even still reading? Okay, good!
All for one! One for all!
The Internet is, for the most part, currently a free and open place to do business, surf, shop, watch, chat, date and waste time. All things considered equal; at least that is the idea of Net Neutrality. All Web Service Providers (ISP) are required, by law, to offer the same network speeds to customers utilizing their networks to distribute, send, and receive data. Now that isn’t the same as a retail consumer buying dial-up or DSL and not getting the same cable broadband equivalent. The speed we are referring to here is the requirement of hosts to provide the ability for their users to allow traffic to their website. ISP’s cannot legally restrict the capacity of data speeds to provide an advantage from one site to another.
This federal protection exists to prevent telecom corporations from essentially controlling the competition on the Net and thereby monopolizing the entire web. With the ability to offer, say Netflix, faster refresh rates and a greater capacity for simultaneous traffic and in turn reduce a competitor, like Hulu’s, equivalent rates and capacity, companies which offer services online, which is basically all companies to some extent nowadays, would be in an untenable position. Corporations like Google and Amazon likely won’t have overmuch to worry about, but as industry giants they are as invested in preventing this potential catastrophe just as the more prosaic companies.
The giants might be safe, but companies large and small will undoubtedly be forced into paying what equates to a king’s ransom to have their sites hosted on an ISP’s network or face ultimate losses without the ability to conduct business on the same level as their competition.
A quick economics lesson, then. Capitalism drives monopolies to be an inherent aspiration of businesses in this country; however, our laws are designed to ultimately stop this from occurring. Some state and federal monopolies exist, in the form of utilities, and to some extent, private regional monopolies within the telecom industry are already prevalent, yet receive exception due to the existence of one or possibly two alternatives for consumers.
The problem with this scenario is that companies are often quick to work together, indirectly or otherwise, to set a standard cost for their products and services; one that allows for a perceived level of competition, yet also suggests an agreement in pricing. Another illegal business practice, price fixing; or the effort by a series of businesses to set a cost that cannot be undercut by their competitors, as to ensure customers have no option but to pay the inflated prices set by the sellers.
Monopoly is not as fun IRL
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s check back in on our open internet. By restricting network hosting speeds the Telecom Companies that control the servers, fiber optics, cables and cords that stretch across this country and provide the hardware, and the metaphor, for our beloved web, will be able to provide a fast lane for those willing to, or are required to, pay the potentially exorbitant prices; and will have no trouble letting the poor civilian, or the economically stressed new business, struggle to run a website that might actually help them to succeed and thrive in this supposedly free market.
With consideration of the fast versus slow lane argument, we would be remiss to not take it to its logical conclusion. For now, those with the power to control those potential lanes seem content with tightening the telecom monopoly’s stranglehold on the US even further.
We owe no allegiance to kings
Should Net Neutrality laws be rescinded, under the direction of our current administration, those monopolies could be in the ultra-fast lane to an established corporate monarchy. The repeal of these laws would only work toward lining the pockets of those receiving kickbacks and enthroning the new kings and queens of the wired world. These measures would be effectively creating an electronic autocracy.
Last time I checked, this was America, and we serve no crowns.
Stay tuned for the continuing series: “Internet Wars: Episode One – The Fanboy Menace”