Net neutrality is a dead man walking. The execution date isn't set, but it could be days, or months (at best). And since net neutrality is the principle forbidding huge telecommunications companies from treating users, websites, or apps differently — say, by letting some work better than others over their pipes — the dead man walking isn't some abstract or far-removed principle just for wonks: It affects the internet as we all know it.
Okay, so how does that affect me? Are we facing a shutdown or what?
Not a shutdown -- but the Internet super highway is about to erect toll booths.
We obviously have net neutrality at the moment. Because of it I don't have to wait longer for one site to download than another. Competition as to the fastest provider, Google, FireFox, Yahoo, AOL -- it's pretty much the same. I have choices, but I don't have to pay more or less to use one over the other.
But for how long?
Not much, if the court goes the way it's leaning. And that's going to mean big changes -- subtle at first, but costly over the long run for we, the consumers. At the same time, it'll ring up obscene profits for the telecoms.
First, this opens the door to fees charged you for data uploads, downloads and speed of access. We had those once and net neutrality pretty much did away with those.
Then let's say you like to visit your favorite site. If they don't pay a fee, it may take longer to download them than another similar site and you might go away to their competition. Or our carriers may instill a surcharge on us to be downloaded at a faster speed or more available to some search engines than others.
This is a real threat. Let's say you like to get your up to the minute sports scores from ESPN.com. They may be deep pocketed enough to pay a large fee not to speed up their delivery, but to slow down full access for other sports reporting outlets by making usury demands for their accessibility and availability.
And don't forget the door this opens to advertising revenues. If you're already tired of the ads embedded in many video clips, how about having to watch one before you can open every one of your emails? Texts. Tweets. Instagrams.
Also, telecom providers will, if this law changes, make it harder for reuse and access to news and information. That might hurt Rand Paul in his speech stealing endeavors, but it also hurts small independents who need to rely on major news gathering outlets to bring you timely and complete stories. Rebroadcast of clips and even some YouTube entries may become impossible.
We're not talking about copyrights, though they are affected. We're talking about the potential for locations like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram and YouTube to charge fees for numbers of tweets sent or received, messages posted or even accessed. They can start institution of levels - The Gold level allows unlimited access while Silver allows less posts or comments and the most costly, ala carte pricing.
...companies like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and others declared a war on the internet’s foundational principle: that its networks should be “neutral” and users don’t need anyone’s permission to invent, create, communicate, broadcast, or share online. The neutral and level playing field provided by permissionless innovation has empowered all of us with the freedom to express ourselves and innovate online without having to seek the permission of a remote telecom executive.
But today, that freedom won’t survive much longer if a federal court — the second most powerful court in the nation behind the Supreme Court, the DC Circuit — is set to strike down the nation’s net neutrality law, a rule adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 2010.
This is something that we all need to watch. We've been blessed with net neutrality for some time now. And we can't afford to lose it. It's a freedom that should be as dear to us as the first amendment -- freedom of speech.
As we saw with the striking down of the Citizens United case, individuals rights are being trumped by big business and political committees fronting for specific special interests. This could soon hit us all. Our favorite sites could be forced into financial hardship or even worse, extinction.