Your internet service providers and government are facing off in a battle that could end life as you know it – seriously.
If you’re another Sydney bed bug victim, or just returned from an international flight and can’t get any shut eye, there’s a solution guaranteed to be more effective than any sleep-inducing drug – natural, pharmaceutical or otherwise. It’s a little term made up of five syllables that combine to spell… net neutrality. Cue yawn.
Yeah, it sounds boring as fuck and makes sitting through the ABC News a party by comparison. But if telecommunications companies get their way, your downloading, streaming, messaging and calling will be at the discretion of telcos like Telstra, AT&T and Optus, self-imposed gatekeepers of the internet who will charge you a door fee to enter and utilize sites you already pay for the privilege of using.
This declares the internet not as a self-moderated luxury that the billionaire telcos can control but as a utility like water or power, making the telcos subject to heavy government scrutiny and legislation.
What that jargon means to you? We’ll break it down:
So what the fuck is net neutrality?
It’s a good thing. Basically, it’s what we enjoy today, the right to freely access all online content – videos, messengers, socials, streams or otherwise – without speed restrictions*. That once you’ve paid your monthly subscription to your internet service provider (ISP) you’re free to use your data any way you want at the same speed. Let’s say you pay for 100 gig of high-speed data per month, whether you’re on Facebook, Netflix or Monster Children, your bandwidth speed remains the same – barring the frequent fuck-ups that is this country’s faulty broadband network.
Why the telcos are against net neutrality
In three words – it limits profits. They want to milk consumers for every cent they can get and net neutrality, in theory, protects consumers from the possibility of being taken advantage of financially.
How the Telcos want to screw you
Taking inspiration right from The Dictator’s Handbook, they want the right to control your bandwidth within your paid subscription timeline and alter your internet speed dependant on which site you’re using. That means, even if you’re paying for the highest speed internet available, they can slow down the bandwidth on frequently used sites like Netflix, apps like Skype or Apple Maps – forcing them to buffer for extended periods – and charge you additional fees to run them at the speed required.
Life without net neutrality
Splendour in The Grass tickets go on sale. You jump online just in time for the on-sale only for the page to take five minutes to load. Then a pop-up exclaims: “Don’t have time to wait? Click here and for just $6.99 you can have 30 minutes of ultimate speed internet.” Then, 29 minutes later when you’re finally in and about to enter your details the wheel of death returns. As does the pop-up and the request for another $6.99 to complete your transaction.
It could also fuck your start-up, blog or online business
Yep, no longer will simple SEO, word of mouth and a slick website be effective enough to get your business, product or blog noticed. You’ll have to hope potential clients either have the patience (ha!) to suffer through the low-speed drudgery or the willingness to pay extra for the privilege of discovering something new… Or, you’ll have to fork out money from your own pocket to your ISP to guarantee your site runs at optimum speed.
The US government is on your side!
Like water, power, telephones or (ahem) guns, the US Court of Appeals denied the telcos’ appeal of 2015 federal legislation by agreeing that broadband internet is a human essential and therefore should be classified as a utility and its providers subject to heavy regulation. Obama has called for the strictest possible mandates and in a decade’s time net neutrality could go down as his biggest achievement.
But the US government is on your side…
Detractors argue that government involvement in data monitoring could bring about serious personal security issues and an ability for the government to control the internet, man. However, proponents argue that data monitoring of companies in no way constitutes content monitoring of citizens or censorship.
The other arguments against
Most experienced commentators are for net neutrality but some argue there are issues that go beyond possible government security breaches. Such as suggestions it could potentially stop the free market and competition between internet providers, and limit incentive for new providers to join the market. Then there’s the argument that if the internet is classified as a utility such as water, gas or electricity, shouldn’t those who use more, pay more? And vice versa. That companies should be allowed to charge by usage.
It’s not over
Last week’s ruling was just one of many appeals by the multi-billion dollar companies, who have been fighting for a decade against tighter regulations on their operations. They argue that up until now, without net neutrality regulations, that things have worked out just fine for everyone. The next stop is the supreme court.