More Hysteria


If you woke up with a chill in your bones and a faint sense of dread, it could be this: On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission decided to give internet service providers, like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, the power to meddle with your internet traffic. Among other things, the decision permits the companies to discriminate against data that flows along their networks. That means Comcast could theoretically charge customers more if they watch a lot of Netflix, or potentially serve Netflix data at a slower speed. Internet service providers, or ISPs, had been accused of doing exactly that, before net neutrality rules were in place. Or Verizon, which owns HuffPost’s parent company Oath, could offer content it owns at faster speeds than content produced by rivals. (For the record, HuffPost’s staff is represented by Writers Guild of America, East, which supports net neutrality and opposed its repeal.) Or AT&T could decide that Amazon or some fledgling tech startup that doesn’t have billions of dollars lying around isn’t pulling its fair share and demand the company pay up or be forced into an internet slow lane. After the FCC decision, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) joined 15 other senators to contest the ruling via a Congressional Review Act resolution. Democrats and some Republicans have voiced skepticism about the FCC decision, and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has pledged a legal challenge.

Many have asked, what happens next? How will all of this – Net Neutrality, my internet experience, look after today? My answer is simple. When the current protections are abandoned, and the rules that have been officially in place are repealed, we will have a Cheshire cat version of net neutrality. We will be in a world where regulatory substance fades to black, and all that is left is a broadband provider’s toothy grin and those oh so comforting words: “We have every incentive to do the right thing.” What they will soon have is every incentive to do their own thing. Now the results of throwing out your Net Neutrality protections may not be felt right away. Most of us will get up tomorrow morning and over the next week, wade through hundreds of headlines, turn away from those endless prognosticators, and submerge ourselves in a sea of holiday bliss. But what we have wrought will one day be apparent and by then, when you really see what has changed, I fear it may be too late to do anything about it, because there will be no agency empowered to address your concerns. This item insidiously ensures the FCC will never be able to fully grasp the harm it may have unleashed on the internet ecosystem. And that inability might lead decision makers to conclude that the next internet startup that failed to flourish and attempted to seek relief simply had a bad business plan, when in fact what was missing was a level playing field online.

So-called net neutrality existed for about 600 days, but not having it could be the end of mankind even faster than global warming. What a bunch of kooks.

PL had a similar analysis of this craziness. Even more nuttiness in the comments section.

PS: to be on the safe side, we’re digging out our equipment from 1995 so we can dial up aol.

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