On the surface, this doesn’t sound very interesting. But this repeal might seriously affect how you use the internet. Interested now? You should be.
Require internet service providers, commonly called ISPs, to treat all online content equally, no matter its source, type or destination. This prevents them from making it faster and easier to access their own content—or content from companies that pay them a fee.
Without these regulations, broadband companies could charge more for their services. Or they could create a tiered system in which those who pay more have access to a broader, faster array of sources.
That’s still pretty broad, so we’re going to take a closer look at how these changes may specifically affect you.
Taking a look at how other countries who don’t (or didn’t) have net neutrality laws can give us a good picture of what could happen here in the future.
European countries are a good example. US News quotes Barbara van Schewick, a professor at Stanford Law School, saying that before Europe had new neutrality rules,
“a lot of mobile providers limited what you could do on the less expensive mobile plans…people on the lowest mobile tier may pay less for service, but they wouldn’t be able to use internet calling applications such as Skype.”
Those who can afford to pay for the higher tier have access to better communication options. At Money Under 30, we use Skype frequently to conduct our international meetings. Without it, we’d be at the mercy of ridiculously high-priced phone companies.
Luckily, the EU now has regulations in place similar to net neutrality laws the U.S. previously had. The regulation officially states that it
aims to establish common rules to safeguard equal and non-discriminatory treatment of traffic in the provision of internet access services and related end-users’ rights.
While there are still holes to be filled in the regulation, Europe seems to have learned a hard lesson from having no net neutrality in the past.
Portugal is a great example of the tiered system that could easily happen in the U.S. For the most part, Portugal follows the same net neutrality rules as the European Union. But, there’s a loophole that allows the major wireless carries—Meo—to charge more for certain data “packages”.
For example, you pay a base price for messaging apps (WhatsApp, Skype, etc.), but then you have to pay an additional cost if you want more than the small amount of data offered originally. E-mail, streaming services, and music subscriptions all operate on the same type of system.
This leads to the fear that “without net neutrality, big-name apps could theoretically even pay telecoms firms for preferential access, offering them money—and smaller companies just couldn’t compete with that.”
This is akin to what could happen in the U.S. if big wireless and cable companies decide they want to charge more for certain bundles.
Startups will have a harder time offering their services
One of the major critics of these net neutrality repeals is that startups may have to pay more to reach consumers.
If a tiered system, like the one I spoke of above comes into play, not only will consumers have to pay to get certain content, but businesses will have to fork over cash to get their sites seen.
These small companies will also have to pay more for the larger internet packages. Think about it, if you must pay for a social media package in the future, small companies will have almost no choice but to pay for these packages since most business is conducted, in part, over social media.
Without net neutrality, larger companies will have an edge over smaller companies. This is because it’s more more likely they’ll be able to afford the higher fees.
Streaming sites may cost more
Now let’s get into why you’ll be really mad about net neutrality being repealed. You may have to pay more to watch your favorite shows or look at social media.
Broadband companies could offer bundles, much in the same way as cable companies. So if you love going on Twitter and Facebook, you could pay for one kind of subscription. And if you binge-watch Netflix or Hulu, you could instead pay for a video-oriented package.
So if you’re already annoyed that Netflix is raising its basic price to $10.99, get ready to potentially pay more.
College students may be seriously affected
A main concern with the net neutrality repeal is the fact that, not only can broadband companies begin to charge for bundles, they can offer different internet speeds. The faster the speed, the more it costs.
Students that live on campus will have less of an issue with this. Large universities likely have the funds to pay for better internet services. However, those who live on their own will run into problems. If you pay for college on your own, paying for a faster internet speed is out of the question.
Trying to write research papers with slower internet speeds—and potentially less resources for research if you can’t afford certain bundles—will put you at a disadvantage.
No matter your feelings on net neutrality, Ajit Pai, Chairman of the FCC, wanted these repeals to go through for good reasons. He said, in an interview with William Brangham:
…my concern is that, by imposing those heavy-handed economic regulations on Internet service providers big and small, we could end up disincentivizing companies from wanting to build out Internet access to a lot of parts of the country, in low-income, urban and rural areas, for example.
This sounds well and good. But, at this interview progresses, it becomes clear that, yes, expansion of internet services are down in the last two years, but companies have come out and said it’s not net neutrality that has hindered them from growing.
While the FCC has made the move to pass the repeal of net neutrality, the bill still has to pass the House of Representatives and later the Senate.
In addition, so far, 22 attorneys have filed suits to save net neutrality.
So, for right now, we’re still a ways away from determining if net neutrality will be entirely repealed.
The net neutrality repeal has the potential to affect the way we use the internet—and not in a good way.
While the intentions of Ajit Pai are honorable, it’s more likely that a system will emerge that benefits high-paying companies more than small businesses and college students.
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