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ESPN Threatens to Take Down the Internet

It may seem like an overstatement of the issue, but it is not. Even if ESPN fails at singlehandedly taking down the internet, the mechanisms it seeks to set in place most certainly will. Most troubling is that people will not even know it is a problem until it is too late to do anything about it. To borrow a phrase, “This is one doodle that can’t be undid home skillet.”

ESPN has just launched the most insidious attack ever on your right to unrestricted internet access. Sure, internet access has never been free and lots of websites require payment to access premium features. ESPN however, has figured out that while asking 0.0001% of us to pay extra to access its premium features is good, forcing 100% of us to pay for these premium features, whether we like sports or not, is even better.

How will ESPN force you to pay for premium access you do not even want? The plan is to start charging your Internet Service Provider (ISP) for access. The ISP then spreads this increased cost on to you. So why is this bad?

The problem is that this will turn the internet into a glorified cable company. Instead of paying $40/mo for access to the entire internet, you get an à la carte bill straight from your ISP. Want access to ESPN? add another $10/month. Access to YouTube? add another $15/month. Google? Another $20/month. Cousin Billy’s website showing pics of his drunken in-laws? Sorry, we no longer carry that, or any of the other tens of millions of websites that refuse to pay up.

This is a one way street to a very bad place. Once content providers successfully conspire with your ISP to destroy Network Neutrality, you will never ever have unrestricted access to the Internet again. Most importantly, the 80% or more of websites and blogs out there lacking the resources to pay your ISP to carry their content will see traffic drop to nothing and eventually disappear.

This “new” internet will be nothing more that a handful of 800lb gorillas vying for who can push the most commercials. I mean where else are you going to go? You unfortunately put all those commercial-free great content laden blogs out of business. Even the Justice Department has gotten into the game, siding with telephony and cable companies, like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast.

Thankfully President Obama has stated that signing a guarantee of Net Neutrality will be a priority during his first year in office. Although I am sure he has not forgotten, it may be worthwhile reminding him, and your congressional representatives of the importance of guaranteeing Net Neutrality.

Most importantly, let your ISP know how you feel about backroom deals to cram extra fees down your throat and cut off your access to 80% of the internet. If your ISP tries to couch these deals as free or low cost access plans, know that they will cost you, and everyone else, much much more in the end.

To find out more about what you can do to maintain fair and free access to internet, visit SaveTheInternet and the Open Internet Coalition. If you don’t, don’t say I didn’t warn you. I would just write an I-told-you-so post but unfortunately, there would not be any way left for you to get to it.

Brett Trout

HT: Daniel Shipton

Posted in Internet Law. Tagged with , , .