A Thing About Net Neutrality

I assume that today, July 12th, you might have seen a thing talking about Net Neutrality and the FCC and things like that. A thing called Battle For the Net. A thing by DemandProgress and FightForTheFuture. Normally I wouldn’t really care about their stuff (and if you do decide to fill in the form, feel free to immediately unsubscribe from them) but someone out there is threatening my internet connection and the Daily SPUF, which is hosted on American servers, so I feel maybe this Net Neutrality stuff is worth talking about.

Being a person on the internet, I assume you like to browse lots of different websites, right? You like to use Google as your search engine maybe. Maybe you like to watch stuff on Twitch.tv rather than watching streams on Youtube. Maybe you’re a Hotmail person rather than a Gmail person. Maybe you prefer using Tumblr to DeviantArt or vice versa. Either way, you’ve got plenty of choice, and there’s nothing stopping you from going to the websites you want.

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So what if your internet service provider (ISP) decided they wanted everyone to use Bing, and decided to slow down traffic to Google services? What if Microsoft paid an ISP a lump of money to flat out stop accepting traffic from Google? Alright, that’s kinda unlikely, but luckily it’s illegal right now anyway.

What about a more realistic idea? What if your ISP could charge you depending on what pages you access. A basic package might only give you access to basic sites. To visit, for example, DuckDuckGo, a non-standard search engine, you might have to pay more. New companies forming new sites might be charged extra just to be able to appear on basic internet packages. And porn could be flat out blocked unless you pay an extra X amount every month.

Currently, your ISP can’t do that. They have to treat all internet traffic equally, whether you’re doing Google searches, watching Youtube, arguing on Reddit, downloading games from Steam or looking for porn. The US government has rules in place meaning that you can go where you want online. They can track where you go, but they can’t really block you. This is Net Neutrality – all web content is treated equally by ISPs. At least, that’s a very basic explanation of it.

The FCC is looking to undo all that, and is looking to let ISPs do whatever they want.

“But my free market! Gimme my free market! Don’t let government interfere with my free market!” people will shout and scream. Yeah, no, that doesn’t really work. In a truly free market, you get oligopolies and monopolies. The big fish will eat everything until there’s no other fish left, leaving you with limited options and no reason for the few remaining companies to be competitive with one another – why should they when the few remaining companies can work together to make sure that everyone pays as much as possible? Just look at internet service providers in the US already – there’s little competition and there’s no choice at all for a lot of people, depending on location.

Plus, how’s that free healthcare/insurance market going, USA? Going well, I hope?

Sorry, that was cruel.

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Free markets don’t work well for the customer unless you give them some rules. The FCC wants to remove the rules that let us browse what we want, without having to pay extra, or having sites not load, or having our connections throttled. And the weird thing is, they keep on trying this. It’s as if those big cable companies mean more than all those citizens who are just living their lives and happen to want an easy, accessible internet connection. It can’t be the money, right? The people in government care more about their constituents than their bribers lobbyists, right?

What makes this more of a problem is that if the USA decides that letting ISPs control what you see is a good thing, then other countries will follow suit. After all, people look up to America. The USA is supposed to be a beacon of hope and freedom and human rights.

And considering that the UN believes internet access is a human right, it’s weird that the USA is still considering letting corporations decide what people should be allowed to access.

If you’re still not sure what’s going on, here’s a video that explains it far better than I can. After you’ve watched it, if you haven’t sent a letter, you can do so here. After all, it’s your internet connection that’s at stake.

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