Could Net Neutrality Affect Your Internet Bill?

Net_Neutrality_slide1_Jenny_KraemerIllustrated by Jenny Kraemer.
Even if you haven't exactly had your ear to the ground, you’ve probably heard the term “net neutrality” this year. Still, the concept isn't as straightforward as we'd like. So, what is net neutrality and how will the proposed Internet regulations affect you and your Verizon bill? Let’s break it down using America’s favorite Internet pastime: discreetly watching streaming TV at work.
Let’s say there are two websites that stream content: One streams all of your favorite shows and movies, the other only streams golf and old episodes of “Honey Boo Boo.” In a free and unregulated Internet, both of these websites can be viewed at the same speed and quality. It doesn’t matter that one service is clearly more desirable than the other; all content is treated equally by Internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable.
In the proposed regulated Internet, “Here Comes Golfing Boo Boo” can pay those providers for preferential treatment and more bandwidth, making it the faster, more attractive streaming option and automatically putting competitors at a disadvantage. While proposed FCC rules say that if a company is willing to pay more, its users should be entitled to better service, activists for a free and open Internet argue that such regulation stifles innovation.
Think of it this way: That website that played your favorite shows could have grown into the majesty that is Netflix, but it couldn’t afford to compete, so now the world is stuck with a toddler picking her nose on the 18th hole. But, at least it’s super-fast?
Net_Neutrality_slide2_Jenny_KraemerIllustrated by Jenny Kraemer.
The FCC’s proposed new rules also allow providers to indirectly “curate” content for you by blocking access to certain websites and slowing down others. Access to your favorite websites could change, depending on if they can afford to be in the so-called “Internet fast lanes” or not. Imagine a world where you’ll have to pay extra to use Amazon over Barnesandnoble.com, Instagram instead of Photobucket, or Google over AltaVista.
After the FCC voted in May to advance rules for Internet regulation, it bravely gave the public 120 days to provide online feedback. In those 120 days, the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System saw so much traffic it actually broke, forcing the FCC to extend the deadline. It received over 100,000 comments within the first week, a number that has now ballooned to over a million. Although today is the last day under the extension to submit your comment using the FCC’s online form, you’ll still be able to submit your comments as replies to preexisting comments or email openinternet@fcc.gov. This might be the one time when leaving a heated Internet comment is the right thing to do. Embrace it.
This post was authored by Meghan Rowland.

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