Net Neutrality Erosion Looms: Here’s What Could Happen And Why You Should Care

Net neutrality could beeline into a trajectory of erosion. For consumers, that spells intentionally clogged internet on some providers, and more pressing notional deadlocks.

Net neutrality, in essence, means that an internet service provider, such as a cable or a telephone company, treats all content equally. Neutrality ensures that ISPs won't throttle certain speeds for certain services, like say, faster connections on one content provider, but much lower connections on another.

Net Neutrality Foothold Threatened

Since President Donald Trump's election, murmurs have suggested that the administration could find a way to overturn the 2015 regulations passed by the Federal Communications Commission, then under the helm of Chairman Tom Wheeler.

Under said neutrality regulations, ISPs cannot slow down or block legal content their subscribers are trying to access. Conversely, content providers cannot bankroll ISPs to render competing services slower, or itself faster than others. Amazon Video approaching a certain ISP to intentionally slow down Netflix access, for example, is out of the question.

Big internet companies argue that the FCC needs powers to protect the open internet, while ISPs argue that the FCC's regulatory authority is heavy-handed, as per USA Today. Back in Obama's presidential era, the FCC leaned toward the internet companies' argument, setting in place rules that prohibit throttling and slowing content from some providers and not others. That however, could lose its stance.

Trump once called net neutrality as Obama's "top down power grab."

The new Trump-appointed FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, cast one of the two votes against the measure.

On Friday, Feb. 3 Pai announced that the FCC was closing an investigation into services that offer proprietary content that doesn't qualify or tally for data caps, while barring the offer from competitors.

Under a new leadership, the FCC could commence drafting new rules for regulation. So what could this mean for you, an average consumer?

Data-Free Offers

ISPs could come out with data-free offerings that let users access services without counting incurred data against monthly internet caps, specifically when the content being accessed is owned by the same company.

Selective Speeds For Certain Content

Content providers could ink deals with ISPs to ensure that the delivery of their content is prioritized more than those of a competing provider, such as the aforementioned example concerning Amazon Video and Netflix.

This means that the content provider that can pull the most strings wins, dominating the speed race, with smaller and less-powerful independent providers being forcefully relegated to slower connections.

Pai said last week that he is all for a free and open internet, but one without FCC's heavy-handed regulation of it.

Higher Fees

Building on the previous point, ISPs could impose a large fee for content providers to ensure that their services are delivered to subscribers without snags. Companies like Netflix, according to ABC News, may pay more to ensure their content gets sent across without problems. This is a potentially unfair practice, since the smaller content providers may not be able to pay the fee, therefore losing out to more formidable competitors.

Because of this, Netflix and similar companies may offload that extra fee to its customers, raising subscription prices altogether because of the imposition. Moreover, it's also possible that your provider could start charging more for a "prioritized" service, in which a certain quality of service is guaranteed in a higher-priced tier, according to CNET.

The smaller content providers being unable to pay will also affect you, too. Consider this: if startups can't reach an ISP's theoretical "priority fee," then innovation stops. The independent providers will stall, and fewer services will be available for people. In short, there'd be less diversity of content.

There's no telling how much leeway companies will have in taking advantage of potentially loosened FCC regulations in the future. As it stands, one can only hope against, or protest the looming bleakness and sketchy overlays of a non-neutral internet.

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