So what the hell is this whole “net neutrality” thing about anyway?
You’ve probably tried to answer that question on numerous occasions ever since the decision was handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Tuesday, but every article you click on is more big-word mumbo-jumbo that makes no sense. Well, for those of you who are like me and literally need everything spelled out, here are the consequences of this god-awful decision in layman’s terms and why it should, and now probably will, resonate more with you than it may have thus far.
First of all, what is “net neutrality”?
Net neutrality is, or rather was, rules that were put in place to ensure that ISPs did not do anything to block, interrupt or otherwise interfere with your usage of the internet. Starting to get chills yet (and not the good kind)? Read on.
Point of Contention Number One: Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are now permitted to discriminate for and against content with which they do and don’t agree.
What this means is that your ISP, whether it’s AT&T, Optimum Online, Comcast, or whoever, is now permitted to give its business partners (like news sites they may own and things of that nature) top priority or, conversely, to slow down sites with which they disagree.
For starters, this means that they now have permission to hinder your access to a video-streaming service if they don’t like the content or the provider. (Think YouTube, Netflix, and less PG forms of video-streaming.) The way we receive our news now is bad enough - imagine it becoming even more biased.
Even worse, when it comes to sites like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and peer-to-peer file sharing websites, many providers have voiced their dislike over how these sites cut into their overall profits. So, if you were enjoying catching up on previous seasons of The Walking Dead via AMC’s website or on Netflix, yeah, you should probably either invest in a DVR if you don't already have one, or catch the show when it airs. That's because now you may experience more lag on these websites, or the service could become blocked altogether. This essentially forces you, in essence, to subscribe to cable television.
Point of Contention Number Two: ISPs can now force websites to pay for their content to be delivered faster.
You know how Facebook started doing that sponsored ad thing where you could pay to promote a post (and are thankfully now reconsidering that unpopular move)? Yeah, same thing here.
Think about that one website that you hate going to because it takes forever to load. Now multiply that by 1,000. If an indie retailer, for example, refuses to pay extra fees for their content to load faster (you know, because they probably can’t afford it, being an independent retailer and all), it may be on the receiving end of longer load times when compared to websites who are ready, willing and able to pay for faster content delivery.
Needless to say, between slower load times and promoted websites, this can become a devastating situation for small business. (Hey kids, can you say “monopoly”?) And guess who’s going to be paying higher prices for internet service in order to pay back the companies who laid out those fees? Yep, you guessed it - the broke-ass public who would much rather (read as: can better afford to) pay eight bucks a month for Netflix, as opposed to hundreds of dollars to the offending service providers who are honing in on our good time.
So, in the simplest terms, everything you hate about the internet right now is probably about to increase ten-fold, as will your hatred for cable TV.
To paraphrase the great comedian Eddie Izzard: “So my choice is ‘or cable’?” I think I’d rather read a book on my Kindle. That is, if it's permitted to load. Oh, well - I knew I was still a champion of “dead tree” books for a reason.