The FCC’s repeal of net neutrality takes effect today (Monday, April 23rd) and it means a lot to all of us.
Some believe it’s the end of the free and open internet, while others think such concerns are just hysteria. Tech companies like Google think it will stifle innovation. One thing is certain: this isn’t the end of the net neutrality fight, at least not if consumers have anything to do with it.
This is a very complex issue, and I won’t even scratch the surface here, but I’d like to at least try to point out why telecoms and the FCC are repealing net neutrality, and why this is a losing battle for them in the long run.
I believe there are a lot of reasons why the telecom companies hate net neutrality, but a few of the biggest reasons I’m going to cover are bandwidth, the slow death of cable television, and a heavy dose of greed.
Bandwidth is a Limited Resource
If you’ve ever seen your company’s internet crawl to a snail’s pace because someone in the meeting room is streaming coworker webcams from all over the country on a GoToMeeting, you know that video sucks up a lot of bandwidth. It’s no different for the telecom companies— more bandwidth means more money they need to spend to upgrade infrastructure to deliver that content.
In 2018, our appetite for information, and the amount of content and types of content we consume has outpaced the stomach telecom companies have to deliver that content fast. Bandwidth plays a big role in this.
This is the telecom companies’ biggest issue with net neutrality. No one likes slow internet. However, as I will cover later in this article, it’s not that I don’t agree with them that bandwidth is at a premium, it’s that we can’t trust telecoms to play nice. They built that reputation, so it’s up to them to get back in our good graces.
I Admit I’m a Cable Cutter
A few months ago I took a long look at my cable and internet bill. I was paying upwards of $190 per month for cable and internet. Add that up over the course of a few years, and that’s thousands and thousands of dollars going to the telecom companies to consume some content I want and a lot of content I don’t care about.
I had always considered cable cutting in exchange for a service like Hulu or Netflix, but the thought of not being able to see the Boston Bruins live on NESN did not sit right with me. There had to be another way. How could I pay less to consume the content I wanted without having to pay more for a bunch of content I was never going to consume?
That’s when I started trialing services like Sling TV and PlayStation Vue. I realized there was a way to lower my bill to just internet and subscribing to a la carte service so that I still could get my daily dosage of sports. I dropped my bill to about $100 per month, and I get HBO! This sounds like an ad for these services, but it’s the honest truth.
But the telecom companies are taking notes, and that’s why they’ve fought tooth and nail to pressure the FCC into repealing net neutrality. Now the cost of those a la carte services are most likely going to go up, and I’ll be right back to square one again. Well, that’s not fair!
Greedy Telecoms' Abuse of Power Will Be Their Undoing
One thing that’s for certain is things change over time. Consumer behavior changes, and likewise so does the way we consume content. Time and time again, big business refuses to change with the times, so they lobby to make sure they continue to make money as they once did. Rinse and repeat.
It happened with the music industry in the 1990s with mp3 and Napster, it happened with radio in the 2000s with the coming of internet radio and satellite, and now it’s happening with cable TV with services like Netflix and Hulu.
The fact of the matter is the telecom companies cannot and will not be trusted to do the right thing. They don’t know what ethics is. It’s not at all surprising that there allegedly were up to 10 million fake net neutrality comments that insisted on repealing the FCC rule.
The @FCC is refusing to help my office conduct a serious investigation into the flood of fraudulent comments submitted during the FCC’s #netneutrality process.— Eric Schneiderman (@AGSchneiderman) November 29, 2017
So we’re asking for your help. Please RT: https://t.co/5tKvBB5cuX pic.twitter.com/4MNfgTMikO
Time and time again, these enterprises abuse consumer trust and refuse to change their ways, and in the end, they will have to anyways, even if they have to do it kicking and screaming.
So Is This Really the End of the Free Internet?
The simple answer is no. We are already seeing states creating their own net neutrality laws to counter the FCC repeal. The FCC may feel like they have jurisdiction to decide the outcome of this battle because the Internet crosses state lines, but whether or not that holds up in court is a totally different story.
I have hope that this fight is just starting and the FCC and telecoms will learn a valuable lesson.