Ahh, the good ol’ folks at the FCC. The never cease to make me shake my head in disgust.
As someone who worked in radio before getting into the advertising game, the Federal Communications Commission has long stood to me as an organization rooted in over-censorship, unreasonable restrictions, and, perhaps most of all, an agency that has egregiously over-stepped the 1934 Congress’ intention hundreds of times over.
That aside, though, I have silently applauded the FCC’s position on Net Neutrality in recent years. For those still unfamiliar with this industry buzzword, Net Neutrality is a fancy term for the principal that all Internet Service Providers and governments should treat internet traffic equally, across the board– so, whether you’re trying to access YouTube or some kinky fetish porn site you wouldn’t want anyone to know about, your access shouldn’t be filtered any differently than for someone attempting to access something more important, like their banking services for example.
The FCC, an organization that I would typically have no kind words for, has actually supported this fair, unregulated state of broadband internet for a few years now. However, as of April 23rd, “something” (read: lobbyists) happened that seemed to have dramatically changed their minds. The agency has proposed new legislation that will give ISPs the ability to charge content providers– Facebook, Google, hell, even this site –to be granted preferential treatment in terms of access speed. Meaning, essentially, someone like Verizon could charge Google so you will have “priority” access to YouTube– and should they decide not to pay, Verizon may slow down your access to the service (potentially, at times, making it completely unavailable to you, depending on usage volume).
Obviously, content providers will want to pay the ISPs to get this premium access; which, larger companies can certainly afford to do. However, what does that mean for the little guy– the new players in the space, trying to break into the market? Well, if they cannot afford to pay for premium access (as many won’t), consumers might not have access to their services 24/7 (especially during peak hours).
Sounds like a mess, right? It gets worse.
If Facebook and Google and Netflix are being charged for providing content, there’s a damn good chance they’ll be forced to pass on some of that cost to consumers. Netflix, for example, can do this directly– it just announced higher fees for new members (not by coincidence, right at the same time that the FCC announced their reversed decision); however, Facebook, Google, and other free services will have to find some way to make this money back. That could lead to more “freemium” options for formally cost-free services, or, perhaps, less “free” content in general.
Luckily, there’s still a chance to stop all of this.
The FCC’s new legislation dooming Net Neutrality is not law– just yet. If the FCC changes its stance, and classifies broadband as a “utility”, like local phone service, Net Neutrality will live on. And all of this mess I’ve just described above? Gone.
If you care about Net Neutrality, and you damn well should, please head to Freepress.net and sign this petition to stop the FCC from enacting their proposed legislation. The future of the internet will thank you.