12/14/2017

Pay up to view this content (Not really)

The repeal of net neutrality has given companies a green light to charge what they want for the content that you want to see. Incentives to keep the internet free are gone. Right now, most of the major companies seem to be saying that they won't change the way they do business. Verizon has a video on how the F.C.C. is (cough) simply moving rules for an open internet (cough) into a different legal category. What they don't talk about is how much the internet will change -and much of the changes will happen overnight.

Those who have cable are familiar with paying extra for "premium" channels. You have to pay to view certain content. These "add on" channels create big profits for the cable companies. They could offer these same channels as part of the regular service package but choose not to. Instead of including these channels, they choose to hit your wallet a little harder for the content that you watch. Society has grown accustomed to the money grab and we accept it. We grumble, but we fork over the cash.

What does this have to do with the repeal of net neutrality? Everything.

Now that net neutrality has been repealed, companies can apply the "premium channel" concept to the channels that you want to watch. There's no punishment for charging more to allow you to see pictures of the grandkids on Facebook, work on your team-created Google Doc, tweet a message to a fellow college student or shop on Amazon.

The insidiousness goes deeper. If your internet provider has a search engine, there's no incentive for them to allow you see a competitor's search engine at the same speed as their own. The internet provider can slow the bandwidth for your preferred website and could force you to wait forever for a page to load. The hope is that you'll get tired of waiting on the slow page and click over to their search engine. This is a hypothetical scenario right now, but then so was the idea of premium cable channels at one time.

Until now, there were rules in place to prevent that. People could surf wherever they wanted to. If an internet page takes awhile to load, it's because of internet problems. It's not because an internet service provider decided what you will watch.

I've been active online since 1996. In my more than 20 years online, I've written for companies, built websites, sold on eBay and Amazon and bought way more than just books online. The past twenty years have seen the dot.com boom, bust and everything in-between.

Ending net neutrality is a strike against small companies, start ups and individuals who just want to keep up with their family and friends. The ruling will change how we interact with the internet, what we see will be dictated by what we (or the internet site that we want to watch) can pay for.

Cnet has a good article on what's at stake with the loss of net neutrality. It's worth a read. Basically, everything that you don't like about cable tv can now shift over to the internet. We can expect to pay for premium packages, watch extra commercials, click through ads that would block us from content and more.

Does the concept of seem far fetched? It shouldn't. Cable companies have been treating customers this way for so long that it's expected. We've grown accustomed to forking over hard earned dollars for the opportunity to have more channels, but nothing to watch. If the net neutrality appeal is upheld, we'll adjust to paying more to access certain internet sites as well.

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