I’m writing this in advance, just to be sure it comes out at the right time.
Major eCommerce companies are coming together on July 12th to highlight a serious issue: net neutrality. These include giants like Amazon, Netflix, Reddit, Kickstarter and even PornHub. Be prepared for a strange day on the internet as many pages bombard you with net neutrality messages or ask you to sign up for petitions.
Here’s the issue at hand. The current U.S. administration is looking to roll back rules that were put in place in 2015. Such action could have serious effects on how well the internet works. Since much of the infrastructure of the internet is in the U.S., and since precedents set in America have a tendency to spread to other countries, this is a concern for the entire world.
In short, net neutrality means that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) cannot give bandwidth preference to certain online entities, or restrict others. Without net neutrality, a cable company that doubles as an ISP could restrict the bandwidth given to rivals like Netflix and Hulu in favor of its own service. Or the ISP could force you to buy a more expensive package in order to have unrestricted access to your favorite service. Or the ISP could decide bandwidth levels based on how much money (read: bribes) each third-party offers them. Netflix could buy unrestricted bandwidth, but at the expense of their bottom line, and to the major disadvantage of smaller companies that cannot afford to bribe ISPs for access. Ultimately, without net neutrality, the ISP gets to choose what content is best, not the consumer.
ISPs have argued that net neutrality rules will inhibit investment and raise costs for consumers. But as an analysis by Ars Technica suggests, things have only gotten better under the newest rules. According to Jod Brodkin, “The cable industry’s top lobbying group has consistently claimed that the US’s current net neutrality rules harm network investment and raise costs for consumers. Yet that same group is now bragging about dramatic increases in broadband speeds and claiming that broadband prices are going down.” The cable industry seems to be changing its facts to fit the audience it is addressing. This article provides a graph showing that internet speeds are increasing at a higher rate now than before the regulations were put in place. Since speeds and infrastructure are growing, if consumer prices are not falling only the ISPs are to blame.
We have reach a point in our civilization where internet is now a basic need or requirement, no different from heat, power or telephone. The best answer is to do in the United States what many countries already do, namely categorize internet as a basic utility and regulate it. South Korea has strong regulations on the internet, and yet has one of the fastest and most wired net systems in the world. I can speak from experience to say that Korean internet is great. Don’t buy into the corporate line that regulation will hurt consumers, all evidence suggests otherwise.
You might be wondering why I am posting what looks to be a political campaign here on my writing blog. First, its not political; there’s only one logical answer to this issue and a bunch of greedy corporatists arguing against logic. Second, this issue directly effects me and any other blogger or author out there on the net. What if ISPs decide to restrict WordPress, or Amazon, or any of the other platforms we publish on? Most of my external publications so far have been with smaller companies, the ones most likely to be hurt by anti-neutrality legislation.
If you have a blog or an internet presence that you rely on for your work or artistry, it behooves you to post something about this issue, preferably on or around July 12th. I’m sure I will.
If you’d like to know who’s joining in this online protest, a list of participating companies can be found at the bottom of THIS PAGE.