If you aren’t an Engineer or don’t work in the tech industry the term “Net Neutrality” may not mean a whole lot to you. So I’ll start with a brief explanation of exactly what it is and why you should care about it.
Net neutrality for all intents and purposes is a means to ensure that the Internet is treated as a Utility. So what does that mean to you exactly?
Imagine if the electric company decided that they would reduce the voltage provided to your house. Instead of getting the promised 110v you were now getting 90v. Likely, this means that most of your appliances wouldn’t work and the things that did would would be unreliable at best. Net Neutrality makes sure that the same thing doesn’t happen with your Internet. Meaning that, say you were watching too much Netflix and the provider didn’t like that — They could simply “throttle” it and make it so your Netflix would be unreliable and constantly buffering. Funny enough, that actually happened.
The government has already made strides to insure that the Internet is treated as a utility, meaning that theoretically the above scenario isn’t possible anymore.
Or is it?
The announcement of DirecTV Now seems harmless enough but if you read between the lines you’ll find that they are actually exploiting a loophole in Net Neutrality. If you have an AT&T Wireless Data Plan you can use DirecTV Now and it won’t count against your data usage. Sounds great for you right?! In the Industry this is known as “Zero Rating” and is something that has been done a few times over the past several years (T-Mobile has done it). Unfortunately the FCC left the door open to this practice by electing to review these on a case-by-case basis.
Imagine the electric company again, sadly you’re still getting that 90v vs the 110v you should be getting. But good news! The electric company has their own lines and if you switch over to them you’ll now get the full 110v and it will be discounted.
You can see why the above scenarios will end badly for consumers in the long term. This means that companies like AT&T (Who is also attempting to buy Time Warner who own things like, Game of Thrones) will begin treating Internet like a bundled package in the same way that everyone gets their Cable today (In fact, AT&T is already hinting at it). This means millions and perhaps billions of dollars for AT&T and it means that the smaller fish miss out, they can’t afford to pay AT&T for the same benefits that AT&T grants itself. And Netflix can probably afford it but that means the cost gets passed on to you, the consumer.
This stifles small business and turns the internet in to a pay to play field. If you just launched a fancy new streaming TV service you will not be afforded the same luxuries as AT&T because you simply cannot afford to pay them for it — giving them the immediate competitive advantage before you even turn on your first server. You won’t get the same level playing field that Facebook or Twitter got.
You can see how Zero Rating and the loss of Net Neutrality would hurt consumers in the long run. The Trump Administration has already begunappointing people that do not believe in a Free Internet which could topple the work done by the FCC over the past eight years. Additionally, the people who represent us in Congress and the Government don’t fully understand the reasoning behind this problem. They are lobbied and wined and dined by the likes of AT&T and are fed information that ultimately helps their bottom line and hurts you.
So make every effort to stay informed about this, Net Neutrality is something that could easily die a quiet death because most people do not understand it, and the big companies will always try and make this sound like it’s for the consumer but ultimately it’s about their bottom line.