The government just voted to ruin the internet so you may wanna get a new hobby
It’s official: the U.S. is one step closer to getting rid of the free, open internet we’ve all enjoyed wasting our lives on for the past few decades.
The Federal Communications Commission voted earlier today to trash the rules that enabled America’s internet access to be open and free in terms of what kind of content you can access.
Aji Pai, the Trump-selected chairman of the FCC, claims he led the charge to overhaul net neutrality so that cable companies could “build networks,” a.k.a. make more money.
“We are helping consumers and promoting competition,” he said earlier today. “Broadband providers will have more incentive to build networks, especially to underserved areas.”
The two women on the commission, who are also the only Democrats, voted to preserve net neutrality. Meanwhile, the three Republican men voted to end it. You truly could not make this stuff up!
From 2015 until today, these regulations protected consumers. They ensured that anything you wanted to watch, read or mindlessly scroll through online was treated the same way by internet providers. They prevented providers from prioritizing some traffic and slowing down other traffic.
So, for example, that if you’re a Verizon customer, Verizon isn’t allowed to give content they own (which includes Yahoo, Tumblr and more) faster load times than content owned by competitors or independent creators. No matter what URL you type into your browser, your internet provider has to load it to your device at the same speed that it would load anything else.
Now that net neutrality is being repealed, though, that could change. It’s still anybody’s guess exactly how. But the main point is that internet providers will have more control over what you access and how quickly it loads. Most internet providers in the U.S. are cable companies, and we all know giants like Time Warner and Optimum are rarely easy to deal with — let alone fairly priced.
Without net neutrality, cable companies could be free to give the content they own preferential treatment. So if you live in an area where Verizon is the only service provider, hope you’re ready for a Yahoo comeback, because Verizon owns that company and might want to make it their customers’ only option for a search engine. (Keep in mind that this is just an example of what could happen. Verizon has not indicated that they plan to do this.)
Another option would be for cable companies to start selling piecemeal internet packages based on which services, platforms and websites you can access.
Check out the graphic below, which shows how internet is sold in Portugal, a company 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
Can you imagine having to pay a fee each month just to text your friends? And what happens when your dumbass bestie who always forgets to pay her bills gets her texting and social media shut off on a day when the two of you totally had plans? Nightmare.
There’s also the possibility that cable companies won’t ban certain content outright, but will make the content that doesn’t benefit them load really, really, really slowly. So if you live in a Time Warner area and one of the companies they own decides to develop an app that will compete with Instagram, it might become a lot more tedious for you to load all the memes that are integral to your survival as a human in this world.
We still have no idea what will definitely happen, though. Cable companies have said this won’t change consumers’ online experience. But cable companies have also told me HBO was free and then totally started charging me an extra $30 a month out of nowhere, so maybe let’s not trust them.
Also, it’s likely this decision could get tied up in the courts for a while, which would at least stall the rollback of net neutrality if not stop it altogether. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has already announced he plans to sue the FCC, calling the decision illegal:
— Eric Schneiderman (@AGSchneiderman) December 14, 2017
So WTF can you do about it? You can sign this ACLU petition asking congress to step in. You can text congress by following the directions at this link. Or you can just sit back and accept the fact that if congress doesn’t step in, the internet’s about to get a lot more slow and/or boring.
Either way, there is probably a long fight ahead of us as the various branches and agencies of our government duke it out over this issue.