So long unregulated Internet access

Chip Oglesby bio photo By Chip Oglesby

The FCC announced late Wednesday afternoon that they have backtracked on their original ruling and will release a proposal for an Internet “fast lane” on Friday. In technology terms, this means the end of net neutrality.

What is net neutrality? Think of it this way:

"Net neutrality advocates like to use the metaphor of cars on a highway, where cars represent internet traffic and the road represents the network. Left alone (read: neutral) any vehicle can zoom down whichever lane on the highway it wants without interference so long as the lane is open. But what if someone built fast lanes where only certain types of cars were allowed to travel? And what if someone toll booths along the road that already exists, just so that other cars had to pay extra to use the road? What if some cars were kicked off the road completely? This is what a world without net neutrality could look like. Tuesday's decision invites big telecom companies like Time Warner and Verizon, who originally brought the case against the FCC, to charge companies faster speeds that get passed on to the end-user. [Gizmodo](

If that doesn’t sound bad, just think about it this way: “The proposed rules could increase costs for content companies like Netflix or Amazon, which would then have an incentive to pass on those costs to consumers as part of their subscription prices.” The New York Times

Not only would sites like Facebook, Netflix and Amazon pass their cost on to you, Internet Service Providers will also be charging YOU more for access to these sites. This will play out in a tiered service where you’re charged more for more popular sites.

Not only that, but it could also prevent sites like mine or even my company’s website from even being accessed. I built my company on the grounds of everyone having free and equal access to the world’s information.

The FCC is letting us all down. - Gizmodo

And this doesn’t bode well for people who are already upset with their ISP. Have you ever done a twitter search for people who are pissed at Time Warner, Comcast or Charter? Check it out: I hate my internet provider on Twitter

So why does this happen?

Start with the revolving door that exists between government and corporations:

FCC commissioner Meredith Atwell Baker announced that she was leaving the commission to become the chief lobbyist for the newly merged Comcast/NBCUniversal. Only months before, Baker had voted to allow the historic and controversial merger between the cable company and the broadcast network, and though the 4-1 tally meant her vote had not provided the crucial margin, she was also on record complaining on multiple occasions that the FCC took too long to approve the deal. [New Republic via NPR, 2011](

AND from Open Secrets:

But the revolving door doesn't just swing from the FCC to Comcast. Lobbyists also can head back to the public sector. That's been the case with David Krone. Krone has an extensive background with the telecommunications industry, holding leadership and lobbying positions with companies like AT&T, TCI Communications and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. [The Comcast-FCC Revolving Door](

What does Tim think about all of this?

Tim Beners-Lee the founder of the internet recently shared some great insight about what helped the web grow to what it is today:

There are a few principles which allowed the web, as a platform, to support such growth. By design, the Web is universal, royalty-free, open and decentralised. Thousands of people worked together to build the early Web in an amazing, non-national spirit of collaboration; tens of thousands more invented the applications and services that make it so useful to us today, and there is still room for each one of us to create new things on and through the Web. This is for everyone. [The Web at 25](

So where does that leave us?

That leaves us between a rock and a hard place.

Maybe the invisible hand of the free market will swoop in and save us all.

Maybe soon we’ll all be paying double what we already pay for substandard Internet access compared to the rest of the world.

Maybe we’re all already so addicted to the Internet that we’ll be willing to pony up whatever is needed to keep our daily “high”.

If this does pass, I see a lot of people waking up soon with worse Internet access and no clue what’s going on. The sad part is, there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.


From 2007: Obama pledges Net neutrality laws if elected president