They did it, they actually did it. The fellas at the freakin’ F.C.C. overturned net neutrality, and the future of the internet looks very, very bleak. How bleak? Well, that’s what I’m here to discuss.
Now, some of you might wonder exactly what’s the big deal about net neutrality. “Isn’t it supposed to be Obama’s way of censoring the Internet?” you might ask? Well, despite what certain conspiracy theorists want you to believe, net neutrality was designed to PREVENT censorship by regulating Internet providers and forbidding the following:
- Internet providers discriminating against or blocking any lawful websites or apps
- Internet providers slowing down (i.e., throttling) lawful data transmissions
- Internet providers providing premium “fast lane” access to websites and forcing users who don’t pay the premium to use the “internet slow lane”
With these rules in place, companies could not prevent users from, for example, visiting a news website with negative opinions of that company or a streaming service owned by a rival Internet provider. An example of net neutrality at work is hard-right conservative and prominent conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. He was always staunchly anti-net neutrality and claimed it was designed to censor the internet. But now, in an ironic twist, this net neutrality repeal is going to give internet providers who want to censor Jones (and yes, plenty of companies want to do just that) the means to do so, and the F.C.C. will be powerless to stop them. While I have no love for the guy, I will be the first to admit I am looking forward to Jones realizing he’s shot himself in the foot and starting to support net neutrality. After all, how can he expect to have any allies if nobody can visit his site or watch his videos? Net neutrality was literally the only vehicle stopping him from being censored, and now that it’s gone, he’s going to get a taste of true censorship, something that wouldn’t be possible without net neutrality.
One of the biggest and most prominent fears about a net neutrality-less internet is that providers will force users to pay for certain packages to access various sites. Some might say that would never happen, but Democratic Representative of California Ro Khanna has evidence that it not only would happen but is happening in foreign countries without net neutrality:
In Portugal, with no net neutrality, internet providers are starting to split the net into packages. pic.twitter.com/TlLYGezmv6
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) October 27, 2017
The F.C.C. chairman Ajit Pai, the man we can unequivocally blame for this fiasco, would like people to believe no net neutrality will help consumers and promote competition. But, there is a huge, glaringly obvious flaw in his logic: competition only works when consumers have access to more than one option. Not every Internet provider is available in every location, and quite a few Americans are stuck with only one company. If an Internet provider wants to lock various websites and features behind certain bundles, some consumers will essentially be forced to kowtow to the demands of this singular provider, regardless of how much it wants to bleed its customers dry, because there’s literally no other option. Well, except for the option to forgo the Internet, but who in his or her right mind would do that?
You might think this article has been nothing but doom and gloom, that internet companies would never stoop so low. But, history has taught us if a company thinks it can screw over its customers, it will screw over its customers. Just look at EA; it thought it could get away with putting horrible, unbalanced microtransactions in Star Wars Battlefront II. EA didn’t get away with that scam, but the company tried anyway. Now imagine Battlefront II is literally the only game you’re allowed to play and that you need to pay three microtransactions to play more than one multiplayer match a day, watch cutscenes in the single player campaign, and access voice chat. That’s the kind of internet we’re facing without net neutrality. I want to be wrong; I pray I’m wrong. But, given the sheer greed large companies have displayed these past few years, we all know I’m not wrong. Then again, only time will tell.