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You’ll Wish You Had Paid Closer Attention

What is Net Neutrality?
There is probably no bigger issue, that you know less about, than Net Neutrality. Unfortunately, by the time you realize what a huge impact it has on your life, it will likely be too late. Net Neutrality refers to the idea that you should be allowed to access any portion of the Internet you like. Internet heavyweights like AT&T, Comcast and Cox cable, however, want to break the Internet up, pare it down and charge you extra to access its different parts. Kind of like cable TV. You want HBO? another $230 every year. NFL Sunday Ticket? Another $250 annually. Even worse, if Net Neutrality fails, most of the websites on the Internet, no having an Internet Service Provider (ISP) pimping them, will simply wither on the vine and die. Your ISP, not you, will be in control of what websites you can visit.

Why Should I Care?
Want to watch YouTube? Sorry, that competes with Hulu, you either have to watch the approved shows on Hulu, or pay a separate access fee to watch YouTube. Just like cable or satellite, the elimination of Net Neutrality means your ISP can slice, dice and hold for ransom, any websites they want. So instead of the 150 million+ websites you have access to today, you might get maybe 1000, that is assuming you pay all the additional package fees your ISP charges for the “expanded” service.

Can’t I Just Stick With My ISP?
What if I just stick with my current, Net Neutral ISP? The problem with that is that even if you do the right thing, others will not be able to resist low-cost (at least initially) non-Net Neutral ISPs. Other, less savvy web users than yourselves will not be able to resist getting their Internet fix at $5 less per month. For everyone that goes with a non-Net Neutral ISP, that is one less visitor for every potential new website. If you cut the market by 80%, or even in half, how does that affect an entrepreneur’s, or even a blogger’s decision to add new content? And for the content that is added, how likely are websites to post anything that goes against the ISP “approved” programming? We will all be stuck with one, extremely narrow, view of the world.

The End Game
The scenario goes like this. The ISPs offer low-cost, or even free, Internet access. The catch is that they eliminate access to 80% of the Internet. People drop their existing provider and go with the free service. Website owners, seeing most of their traffic directed away from their website and toward those competitor’s in bed with the ISPs, millions of websites stop adding content to the web. Many millions more potential website developers will decide not to start that new website if no one is going to see it. As the number of alternatives to your ISP’s hand picked selection of pay-per-view websites dwindles, the ISP can begin to increase the price of the service back near, or even above, prior Net Neutral prices. So you end up paying the same, or more, as you do now, for 1/150,000 the selection you had before and no objectivity.

What Can You Do?
Obviously, not signing up with an ISP that denies you access to the entire Internet is critical. More importantly however, is mandating your Congressional representatives take immediate measures to ensure your continued access to ALL of the Internet. In Iowa, Tom Harkin supports Net Neutrality, while Charles Grassley is undeclared. I can not believe I am siding with Harkin on something, but on this issue he clearly has the right idea. If you would like to urge Senator Grassley to get on track and protect your freedom, feel free to contact his office. For more information on what you can do, visit SaveTheInternet.com and The Open Internet Coalition. Do it now, because once Net Neutrality is gone, it will never return.

Brett Trout

Posted in Internet Law. Tagged with .