Net Neutrality: What it means to you.

Yes, I apologize, I’ve been quiet a while due to other obligations which could not be postponed. But I’m back and I have a lot of catching up to do! While there are SO MANY topics I want to cover, the most pressing today is Net Neutrality. It is has been a largely bipartisan position, until the recent descent into political hell, and the vast majority of citizens, from all political parties, support it. Why should you?

Well, some of us remember before Net Neutrality. The early days of the internet were one thing, when speed was limited to phone lines and everyone had an AOL email address. Oh yeah, it sucked. Speeds picked up, computers got faster, broadband became the norm and people began really utilizing the opportunities the internet offered. People began shopping, though still a bit awkward. E-commerce was born. Now the opponents of Net Neutrality want you to believe that it stifles innovation, but under Net Neutrality, we have seen the real explosion of innovation and connection of the internet to our every day lives. Net Neutrality made streaming of movies and television possible, not only to your home systems, but to tablets, computers and phones. You never need to miss a big game because you have to be away from home and you have an endless supply of movies to entertain your kids on car trips or at the Dentist’s office. You can stream online games on your phone. You have instant connection to anyone, anywhere through mobile technology. You can check prices, order your groceries for pick up or delivery. You can open or close your garage, lock or unlock your door, turn your lights on and off from anywhere.

Just yesterday I answered my front door and politely told a salesman I was not interested, from the grocery store. He had no idea if I was home or not. You want innovation? How’s this? I have a crock pot that connects to my WiFi which I can remotely access with my phone and turn it on or off, or change the settings.

What else has Net Neutrality opened up? Well, I can access any web pages I want. I am not restricted by my provider. This was not always the case before. In the small print of the two-year contract you had to sign, they had the right to restrict access to some sites at their discretion. And they did. Today that is not legal,  which benefits the consumer. You can comparison shop, even other internet providers. They cannot block services like Netflix or Hulu in favor of their own streaming services, or charge you an extra fee, to them, to access those services. When Net Neutrality is gone, then they can treat internet access like they do cable access, and sell you packages which are not limited to speed, but ACCESS. So, you know how a basic cable package gives you a short list of channels you can access, but if you want Disney, ESPN or even FOX News (to each their own)  then you have to upgrade your package. That is how the big internet companies want to sell you internet, because they could make a ton of money off of it.

Think about it. If you have Alexa or Google Home, consider all the apps you are running through your internet. Right now, the service provider isn’t getting a piece of that action. And they shouldn’t be. You are paying for internet and internet speed, how you use that should be up to you, not them. They want to be able to siphon off all of these applications that we use every day. Wonder why Amazon and Etsy are fighting to keep Net Neutrality? Because without it, these companies could be forced to make deals with service providers, giving them a fee or a cut of profits, just to be accessible on their service to consumers. Yeah, you read that right

In essence, Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) could charge these companies to be on their ‘network’ and then also charge their customers to access those sites. Double payday for something you just have right now. They would be converting money from nothing, (and that money comes from you) holding our access hostage and extorting from businesses and the public. Now, if you are going to have to pay an extra fee to access your apps, that could start adding up really fast. Remember, this is something you do not have to pay extra for right now. But just think, a quarter, or a dime, or even a nickel extra a month for everything you access through your internet. It adds up quick, and many things would be a lot more than a nickel. It will make people think twice about how many devices they use, how much streaming they enjoy, how connected they want their home. They could charge you per device. (Which would make you not so wiling to give your cousin the wifi access for his phone while he’s at your house.) And when people have to start thinking twice because the cost suddenly went up, that does not help the market, it stifles it. It doesn’t lead to ingenuity, it leads to stagnation.

The only benefits for removing Net Neutrality are for the large ISPs. There is zero benefit to anyone else, least of all the smaller competition. It has the potential to undermine small businesses selling online, as the ISP may require, and without Net Neutrality will have to right to demand, fees or percentages of sales from small businesses. This would be in addition to whatever sales service or software they may utilize. It is common to pay a host for a shop you open on your website, in return you get all the shop programming which makes payments and such easy, helps you set it up to look nice and professional. It is just an annual or monthly fee. But the ISP could charge you as well, in addition, for providing you with no service at all that you do not have right now. They can extort money from businesses under the threat of blocking them from the users which access their network.

Preventing this practice is just one of the many reasons we enacted Net Neutrality to begin with. It is a consumer and business protection which has allowed for unparalleled growth in the industry. ISPs are making huge profits. They see an opportunity to make more. This move would hurt our economy.

There is another issue which is concerning as well. Free Speech. These ISPs would have the ability and authority to block any site, organization or even blog that they disagreed with politically, religiously or morally. They could cater your internet experience to see only the news, sites and streams which benefit their own agenda. That means, if a large ISP wants a particular legislation passed to benefit them, they could ostensibly promote particular political views and repress opposition to help candidates who make back room deals with their lobbyists. That sounds fun and amazing, right? Of course, large corporations would NEVER shell out money or utilize their influence for political favors, right? Certainly, there are no politicians alive who would demean the integrity of their office to help out their donors, are there? So, sarcasm aside, control over the viewable content of the internet and its use by consumers, especially considering the vital role it plays in our society, by a small group of corporations is extremely dangerous to even our democracy.

So, what does Net Neutrality mean to you? Well, it saves you money. It gives you the freedom to surf the net however you like and use your access to the internet how you like, whether it is online gaming, shopping, checking out your security cameras, tossing your dog a treat while you are at work, streaming your favorite shows and movies or even turning on a crock pot. It allows you to do your banking and online bill pay with security and without an extra fee to access it. You can check all of your credit card accounts, pay your utility bills and do research for homework. You can chat, communicate and network with friends and colleges. You can video message Grandma so she can see how much the little one has grown, even when you live a thousand miles or more away. It ended long distance calling bills. You can share ideas and pictures and videos. Now how would you feel if you had to pay extra for every one of those things that you do right now without an extra fee?

The big business opponents to Net Neutrality, and the politicians they have bought, want you to believe that the rule of full disclosure is ample enough and suggests a free market without regulation will work. The problem with that is there are really only a few big companies which control the market, and they work in concert for their own, collective interest. With that much power over a billion customers, they tell the consumers what they can have. There is little competition and zero incentive to not make extra money if they can. They will squeeze everyone from every side to get every penny possible. The ‘competition’ between them will be small discounts and upgrades they offer for the same extortion packages where you pay extra for what you have right now.

I had the pleasure of contacting Rep Ken Calvert, a Republican representing the 42nd District in California. He is one of the sold-out, driving force politicians who cater to the wealthy elite. Why do I say that? Well, here is a quote from the congressman’s response to my query regarding revoking Net Neutrality. He wants to:

  • Reclassify broadband internet service as an information service and return to the light-touch regulations that were first established with bi-partisan support during the Clinton Administration. 

  • Reestablish the transparency rule from the 2010 Open Internet Order that requires internet providers to disclose to consumers any paid prioritization, throttling, and congestion management practices on their networks. 

Yes. He said that. First off, the Clinton era was the real birth of our modern information age.  The “light touch regulations” that he talks about were, in fact, the FIRST real regulations governing the internet. No one at that time could really foresee what regulations would be necessary to protect consumers and businesses, alike. Second, he conveniently reiterates exactly the point I made before, with the idea that a ‘transparency rule’ to disclose paid prioritization, throttling, etc., is sufficient to safeguard consumers. In case you are unclear what throttling is, it is exactly what it sounds like. And here is a definition to help you along:

throt·tle
ˈTHrädl/
verb
gerund or present participle: throttling
  1. 1.
    attack or kill (someone) by choking or strangling them.
    “she was sorely tempted to throttle him”
    synonyms: chokestranglestrangulategarrotegag More

  2. 2.
    control (an engine or vehicle) with a throttle.

Yeah. Nothing like the authority to throttle, just so long as they say they will be throttling somewhere in the super fine print you need a lawyer with a microscope to read and interpret for you. Exciting.

So, what does it mean when they want to throw away Net Neutrality, which has ushered in a fantastic, innovated age of information and potential? It means they want the power to throttle the internet. They want to allow their wealthy donors to choke, strangle, and gag the internet, holding it hostage unless you meet their demands. Sounds a lot like the Russian hackers who take control of businesses and demand a ransom to release it. Except for a few things, this ransom would be legalized, you never stop paying it and at least the Russian hackers have the decency to admit they are screwing you. They don’t try to pretend like they are doing you a favor. It doesn’t matter what your party affiliation is, you should be righteously pissed.

The vote is tomorrow. Make your voice heard. Your voice could actually depend on it. Your way of life depends on it. Speak out. Your wallet will thank you.

We are One Woman, One World.

photo credit: Internet for All.