So… today our hardworking government guardians-of-information-transfer over at the FCC are set to propose new net neutrality rules which, they assure us, will ALLOW content creators to PAY INTERNET PROVIDERS to guarantee faster access to consumers. Well, thank goodness that’s going to happen! For a moment I was afraid the cable and satellite internet industry was going to be deprived of billions of dollars in new revenue, and weren’t going to be allowed to squeeze other industries into paying a brand new toll on bandwidth use. Whew! I wouldn’t want any of those big companies to have to go on “playing fair” or anything like that.
Why, you ask? Well, last January the D.C. Circuit court struck down a regulation that forced companies entrusted with maintaining the backbone of the internet (big servers, like Comcast and AT&T) to remain strictly non-descriminatory when doling out bandwidth to customers, be they companies or private users. That means everyone got basically the same amount of bandwidth for the same price, and the big servers couldn’t purposely slow down or limit the traffic required by big bandwidth hogs (Google, Amazon, NetFlix and Hulu) even if those companies are in direct competition with similar services offered by the server companies— like Comcast Pay Per View and Xfinity On-Demand.
But now the big servers can decide the speed of any user’s internet connection according to their whim, since the January ruling tossed net neutrality out the window. The new FCC rules are intended to regulate the pay-for-priority schemes which are sure to arise, now that Big Internet gets to charge “special rates” to those who must pay them the equivalent of “bandwidth protection.” You know, like the Mafia— “Pay us or I’ll have my associate Luca Brasi choke your internet connection to death… one baud at a time.”
The FCC promises fairness and openness, and that it will “protect the best interest of the public” in creating the new regulations. These guys are the best and brightest when it comes to serving the public interest, as their track record shows: after all, they spent close to a million dollars of our tax money on exorbitant legal fees trying (and ultimately failing) to fine Janet Jackson HALF THAT SUM for flashing a nipple during the Super Bowl a few years back. So… geniuses!
The new proposed regulations aren’t really “net neutrality” as the FCC would have you believe. They just provide an economic incentive for Big Internet to unfairly influence online business activity and choose which content providers are successful, versus which providers fail. Think about it— according to the current regs, Comcast can literally turn down the speed of Netflix View Now traffic until the whole system can’t buffer anymore, essentially ruining Netflix’s online service. And Netflix will have to pay them NOT to do it, or else suffer the consequences.
Equally bad, this whole situation might subvert the open Internet by creating a fast lane for the 1 percent (and slow lanes for the 99 percent) turning the Internet into a high-priced private toll road virtually (pardon the pun) inaccessible to new designers and start-up companies who can’t afford the big tolls required to compete with previously established companies. Nor would young inventors dare develop any new super-high-bandwidth technologies out of fear they can’t afford enough bandwidth to serve future customers.
Why would the FCC even bother expending so much time and effort breaking up the telephone and cable TV monopolies if they were planning to turn over the keys to the American digital infrastructure to a handful of megacorporations anyway? Corporations that might manipulate the flow of internet traffic to directly influence commerce or shut down certain information outlets that— oh, wait. Government and corporations. Controlling the flow of information. Got it.
Hey, Gen X! Remember how bad it used to be, trying to connect over our 14.4 baud modems through copper wire to services like AOL that charged by the minute, even when the computer did nothing but spin endlessly and try to buffer? Because the service was out of bandwidth?
Happy days are here again.