Understanding DirecTV Now and why it’s a problem for the Open Internet

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.

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