Net Neutrality is back in the news thanks to a recent FCC ruling that re-classifies the internet as telecommunication services under Title II of the Communications Act. That means the FCC officially ensures open access to the internet for all Americans. Specifically, it prevents your internet service provider from degrading your experience. That’s great for the consumer, but this is also great for innovation. Some politicians want you to believe otherwise, but they’re just wrong… willfully so. We’ll discuss their ignorance in a moment; let’s look at the new rules first.
- No Blocking – broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
- No Throttling – broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
- No Paid Prioritization – broadband providers may not favor some lawful internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration — in other words, no “fast lanes.” This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates.
All those rules boil down to one basic concept: broadband providers cannot degrade your access to any legal internet content. Believe it or not, this is actually a current problem on the internet. I think people generally understand Comcast is the most evil corporation in our union. I don’t need to provide sources to prove that, but here, have some sources anyway. Comcast has been throttling people and companies for years. These new rules will prevent Comcast from continuing its self-serving practices and allow for a more open internet.
I keep saying open internet, so let’s talk about what Comcast and other ISPs do to close and limit our internet freedoms. Companies like Comcast think it’s okay to charge content providers like Netflix for unlimited customer bandwidth. Even though Netflix is already paying for their internet connection, Comcast wants to charge Netflix more money to deliver movies to you at full speed. To be clear — Comcast wants to throttle your internet connection if you’re using it to access a service like Netflix. If you’re doing online research for your next big idea: no throttling. If you’re watching House of Cards on Netflix: throttling.
Netflix eventually gave in to these demands and started paying Comcast — let’s just call them the mafia moving forward — for un-throttled distribution of their content. How could Netflix ignore the demands? Comcast basically used a line straight out of every mafia movie, “Hey, Netflix, your content may find itself getting slower if you don’t pay us to prevent that.” Comcast ‘guarantees’ internet speed just like the mafia ‘protects’ businesses. That, my friends, is extortion, but everyone’s afraid to testify because ISPs own half of the political spectrum. After Netflix agreed to the mafia’s terms, their streaming speeds on Comcast increased 65 percent. It wasn’t just Comcast either; Netflix now has these mafia deals in place with nearly every major ISP (mafia don) in the US. We made a handy chart to show exactly when these deals took place. The chart shows Netflix monthly average download speed by service provider. Comcast came knocking first; Time Warner, AT&T, and Verizon all followed suit shortly thereafter. Google refrained from playing out its mafia fantasies.
Think of your local internet as a pipe; there is a maximum capacity that pipe can pump at any given time. Most providers will “over-sell” the pipe to 4 times its capacity before they consider upgrading it.
That means ISPs like Comcast can’t provide you and your neighbors with the full bandwidth you pay for at the same time. If you and your neighbors saturate your internet speed simultaneously, everyone suffers. That’s the harsh reality of all ISP business strategies. They’d rather complain about the type of data you’re using when they should be working to fix the actual problem: bandwidth. What happens when TV finally goes online? Will your neighborhood internet keep up? Probably not. Maybe they should have used the billions of dollars we gave them in tax breaks to upgrade the infrastructure (like they said they would) rather than paying off politicians to prevent competition.
That brings us to the willful ignorance of the Republican Party for this specific issue. I want to preface this with the fact that I’m not a Democrat, nor would I claim to be Republican. I question both parties’ motivation in every debate. Realistically, most of our politicians listen to money first and foremost. Whoever paid the most to get them elected receives special consideration on political issues. That said, companies like Comcast spend an unearthly amount of money lining political pockets. In fact, Comcast is second to a military supplier in spending. Yes, military first, then the company who controls your access to the internet. Republicans receive a large majority of ISP money. That’s why they’re suddenly against Net Neutrality. Thanks, Obama.
I call it willful ignorance because Net Neutrality is not bad for consumers or corporations. The current Republican argument is that a new FCC chairman could come in and completely change the rules for the internet. Really? That’s the dumbest heebie jeebie scare tactic I’ve ever heard. Could that happen? Absolutely. Will that ever happen? No. Net Neutrality is about preventing bad behavior, not about controlling the internet. In reality, allowing the FCC supervisory control over the internet is the only way we can guarantee it remains open and fair to everyone. Comcast certainly won’t regulate itself.
As for the Republican claims that this will stifle innovation, bring new taxes, and cause an economic downturn… lies. All of them. Comcast paid them to say that. Seriously. They literally “donated” to republican campaigns to ensure this reaction to the FCC’s decision. As soon as the vote passed, lots of Republicans released prepared statements about the ill effects of the decision. Here’s a quote from the House Judiciary Committee:
Rest assured, the Committee on the Judiciary will take every action necessary to ensure that the Internet remains a free, competitive marketplace.
No, I will not rest assured. I might as well ignore the “free” part of that quote and see its true meaning in the word “competitive.” These representatives don’t care about anything that doesn’t line their pockets. I find it truly disgusting. I feel that way about most politicians at this point, but these people are currently the worst in my personal ranking system. Anyone who trumpets anti-competitive speech while taking thousands upon thousands of dollars from the very corporations that stifle true competition deserves an extra special place in hell. Am I being harsh? I don’t think so. This willful ignorance perfectly demonstrates how corrupt our political system is at this point.
In the end, the FCC reclassified the internet so they can protect us from companies like Comcast and the reach of their Republican bedfellows. That’s a win for our nation: one of the biggest political wins we’ve seen in years — but, again, this shouldn’t be a political issue. This is a money issue: rich corporations pay these representatives to say stupid things. They know they’re wrong, right? Unfortunately, this ruling must endure lawsuit after lawsuit challenging this decision for years to come. I’m not a legal expert, but it should be difficult to overturn this decision. Companies like Comcast and Verizon will childishly fight this as long as they have money. Let’s hope this outcome sticks. We’ve shown, with 3.7 million FCC comments, that our nation wants an open internet. So I say, ISPs, bring it on. You will not win this fight.
Image by Backbone Campaign via flickr.