With the recent repeal of net neutrality, many people are left wondering what the future of the internet will look like. People have spread the idea that certain websites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, will start charging users to gain access to previously free content. Images of internet packages being sold with access to some websites being blocked were also circulated. These images stir up fear and speculation and simply serve as scare tactics to the masses that are not grounded in reality.
The net neutrality regulations that took effect in 2015 stated that all data must be treated equally. Internet fast lanes is a popular way to describe what a world without net neutrality would look like, allowing some data to be sped up and more readily accessible than others, with access to this fast lane being granted to those who pay more for it.
Netflix, Google and Reddit were some of the first companies to voice their concern over the recent repeal. Of course these companies would lead the opposition as they would be forced to invest in the Internet Service Providers (ISP) that they use in order to ensure there is no throttling of their data. I see no problem with this issue. Blatant blocking and the discrimination of data is not censoring any ideas nor is it targeting any person.
In 2011, T-Mobile introduced the zero-rating model for data plans which allowed some services to not count towards data usage. T-Mobile was a dying company that tried to sell themselves to AT&T, which was blocked by the U.S. government, forcing them to compete if they wished to survive. Through the introduction of the zero-rating data model, T-Mobile grew rapidly, forcing their competitors to respond. Unlimited data plans were the result of this competition, which resulted in an overall net-positive for the consumers when it comes to the way they accessed the internet.
In 2005, Madison River Communication blocked access to Voice over Internet Protocol services in an attempt to prop up their own alternative. Their competition promptly informed the FCC and they were reprimanded and forced to stop. The blatant blocking and censorship of data is a core fear with this FCC decision. The Madison River case shows that past regulations are sufficient in stopping ISP from carrying out this fear that is being spread. The idea that a ISP would block access to any site does not make any sense economically. ISPs rely on traffic to be profitable and if they blocked access to any website, then it would go against their business model. Today’s media has done an amazing job of breaking important news stories when it comes to anything related to policy changes under President Trump. If an ISP betrayed their consumers by blocking access to certain sites, this would be certain to make national news and consumers would turn to other ISPs for their internet.
The internet that we grew up with will continue to be the internet we have today. When companies show us the very nature of our political economy and back these large political movements, and we don’t take a step back and see why exactly they would support a certain cause, we simply become consumers of propaganda. I look forward to a future where there are more choices when it comes to internet access and the infrastructural improvements that come with this new source of revenue for ISPs. The ability for ISPs to pick and choose which companies’ data to favor will create a similar situation to what happened with T-Mobile. The increased competition between not only ISPs but the vast majority of companies that rely on their service will force companies to invest in the best possible options to ensure their consumers are satisfied.