A lot of clients, friends and family have asked me about what the recent FCC ruling means for them, and many of them admit that they don’t really have a full understanding of what Net Neutrality actually is. First, here’s a refresher on Net Neutrality. Spend five minutes even if you understand NN, as it might help you better explain this complex topic to a friend or colleague:
What does the recent repeal by the FCC mean for you?
Let’s be perfectly honest. This debate has been ongoing for years, but what precipitated the FCC ruling in 2014 that was just recently repealed was something that NN advocates had predicted and warned about for years: a content provider (Netflix) paid an ISP (Comcast) to get out from under a speed throttle the ISP put in place, ostensibly to preserve bandwidth quality for their customers, but seeing as Comcast got a very large payday to open up the throttle, it doesn’t take a degree in economics to see that someone used their monopoly position to strong-arm another company into coughing up more money. And lest you think (or a NN opponent suggests) this didn’t have an impact on you or I, Netflix raised its prices in October 2015.
While a certain portion of the internet is already in pitchfork and torch mode (and have been for years) given the repeal of a ruling that was created to prevent the sort of shenanigans like the Comcast-Netflix deal above, Net Neutrality has essentially been on the “honor system,” even while the ruling was in affect. It would be fairly dumb, even by today’s lowered standards, for one of the ISPs to immediately announce a pricing program similar to the dystopian scenarios offered by the internet. But you and I know that big corporations aren’t known for always behaving in the public’s best interest, and you can definitely count on them to focus on maximizing shareholder value. With the current state of internet service provider market competition (there isn’t any for most consumers), we as consumers don’t have much in the way of voting with our wallets as NN opponents would have us believe. The ISPs have us over a barrel, and they know it. It remains to be seen whether they will be benevolent shepherds or merciless overlords, but given the recent disregard by the FCC for public opinion, I’m leaning towards the latter.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net