by Jon T. Norwood
If the public truly knew and understood the issues involved in regulating the Internet, specifically the companies that provide Internet access, Net Neutrality would have been a much more important issue. Unfortunately, the public either did not understand or did not care and now, Net Neutrality is all but dead in Europe, and breathing its last breath in the United States.
The Death Blow
On Wednesday, March 5, the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee voted to approve a joint resolution by a vote of 15 to 8 that effectively dismantles the FCC’s net neutrality rules; it now moves to the House. With the GOP in control of the House, it is likely that the measure will pass. This is further reinforced by the fact that there is little in the news about the issue.
With the Internet increasingly dominating the news, and public popularity controlling that dominance, the fact that there was little reporting on the issue is tied to the fact that those stories that did come out fared poorly in the popularity ratings. People just do not care, or so it seems. That lack of concern will be the primary driving force behind the death of Net Neutrality. Is there really no point to having some level of government regulation over Internet access and how it is handled?
One of the first issues that will eventually affect the consumer is that various Internet services providers will choose to block content they perceive as being competitive to their interests or a burden on their networks. In other words, this means that video and downloads will be all but restricted to only those services your ISP wants you to use, and other various issues that favor the ISP.
This has already been an issue in the past with Comcast throttling bit torrent traffic. Without Net Neutrality, however, video services like Netflix and Hulu may find themselves blocked to limit the competition they represent to ISP’s own video services. With most access providers being contract based, especially in the mobile field, this means that people will no longer have a choice regarding what they watch.
How many consumers will pony up for an account on their favorite website, only to find that they will have to shop for a different ISP to use it? Most of the potential problems deal with mobile data access, but they were exempted from most of the regulations originally. Cable and DSL providers are no longer obliged to behave, and they presumably will not with the expected final death of Net Neutrality. They will also no longer have to disclose vital information regarding their services.
What all this means is that the Internet will be the exclusive property of the access providers, and that they will, as a block of companies, control what is available; this is called a “Trust.” This Trust is what the anti-trust law against monopolies is about, and what prompted that law.
Corporate Controlled Information
It is bad enough that Google gets to decide what you can find on the Internet, but when you add to that Internet access providers controlling what you can access, the entire information ecosystem becomes corporate controlled and part of a monopoly. Much of the life of the modern American is on the Internet and this move against Net neutrality is just the first step toward a corporate controlled Internet, and the future steps may be more onerous than this.
Startup companies may never see the light of day because they fail to achieve approval from an access provider. Innovation is stifled by this, and we will increasingly see only what “they,” the Internet access providers, approve of and if they do not approve, you won’t see anything. That is the very definition of censorship, and it is being put into place right now. The argument being used is that nobody is complaining, so it is working, and therefore regulation isn’t needed.
The future of the Internet is looking bleak. Once the first steps are in place, future actions become easier. Suppressing news and information about a subject that is seen a threatening to a major access provider becomes much easier. If ISP A decides to suppress a news service because of its reporting on ISP A’s activities it can and the users will never see the information. If ISP A is a major provider, a large chunk of the Internet population is kept in the dark. The future is getting darker, and no one seems to care or notice.
Jon T. Norwood is a managing partner at Broadband Internet, a site dedicated to providing information on Mobile Broadband News. Jon can be reached at email@example.com.