Net Neutrality and Why It Must Stay
So you may have heard this in the news lately and understandably so, you may be a little confused at to what the whole fuss is about. However, this is an extremely important issue that will affect you, whether you want it to or not. In fact, it is so important that after 4 and a half years, I decided to make this particular page live and publicly available.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is the concept that everything on the internet will get equal service. For example, going to Youtube will have the same speed as going to as Netflix, Facebook, and of course this site, Tavico Productions. As of now, we do have Net Neutrality and we have been having it for a while. That will soon change if the FCC's proposal goes through.
What Will The FCC Do?
To explain that, we need to go a little into the history of Net Neutrality. Back in 2010, the FCC imposed ruled for Net Neutrality call the Open Internet Order 2010. These were official guidelines that stated Internet Service Providers (ISPs) could not block contents or discriminate traffic. They also must be transparent in their practices. This was in response to Comcast toggling the services of Torrent users. In January 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the FCC could not control the blocking of content and discrimination of traffic. This was a major blow to net neutrality because now, ISPs can do what they want. In light of that, FCC's chairman Tom Wheeler want to propose a plan called Open Internet. The name alone appears to be for net neutrality but in it allows what is called "fast lanes." Essentially, it allows ISPs to charge a fee to sites for better service. This "fast lane" is in essence, against net neutrality.
What Is The Proposed "Fast Lane?"
The "fast lane" is the concept of ISPs charging fees to internet companies so they can have better service. I guess in theory, this will be good capitalism but there is several problems with it.
First off, look at your local area for ISPs and you will see something that is unexpected, the amount of ISPs available. As of today, you are actually considered lucky to have 2 or more ISPs in your area and there lies the first problem. In capitalism, if one service tries to be unreasonable, you can move to another service. However, the way broadband is set up, there are few if not no options to change service. This means that regardless of how unfair and unreasonable the company is, you literally can't change. Also, considering how many things one does on the internet, there is really no option to disconnect from the web as well.
Secondly, the concept of the "fast lane" is actually a misleading name. The name leads one to believe that the ISPs will create new infastructures for these types of service. That seems not to be the case. According to many of the ISPs, they are not planning on expanding on any of their infastructures at this time so they can capitalize on their existing infastructure. This only leads to one conclusion, the "fast lane" is in fact the current speed you have now. You can also conclude that those who can not afford the fast lane will be in a slower lane.
With these two facts, it should be no surprise that the US is neither the cheapest nor the fastest when it comes to the internet. In fact, according to this article in The Week,
the US is ranked 31st in average download speed and 42nd in upload speeds. I will admit though that I am not positive on these stats since many don't agree on the exact place. However, all do agree that South Korea and Japan have far better and less expensive internet service than the US.
ISPs Won't Slow Down The Internet, Will They?
Yes they can, yes they will, and yes they have done it before. Shortly after the appeals court decision, many Netflix users noticed that Netflix was being extremely slow (Feb 2014 - Apr 2014). I am pretty sure many think it was because Netflix was just being slow. Well, a report came out just a few weeks ago that showed that speed towards Netflix decreased in the months prior to the January 2014 ruling and slightly after. It wasn't until Netflix agreed to a fee that the speed increased. In fact, according to Netflix, speeds increased by 65%. Sounds a lot like the proposed "fast lane" now, doesn't it? As a side effect of this, Netflix did announce that prices will increase.
It does get a lot worse though. A new report, as new as a couple of days ago, states that the ISPs are deliberately slowing down the internet in the US. Although no official name is given, Level 3 (who brought this accusation) states that 5 US companies are allowing network issues to continue because they refuse to upgrade their infrastructure.
They did, however, give us a clue as to which ISPs they are since they "also happen to rank dead last in customer satisfaction across all industries in the US. Not only dead last, but by a massive statistical margin of almost three standard deviations."