If you’ve been a responsible Internet user in the last few months, you’re familiar with the term and what it means for us, the paying subscribers.
For those unaware, it’s the movement (or set of rules, rather) that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all online activity equally. In other words, you pay your fees, and you have unadulterated access to the Internet, regardless of the sites you visit, the services you use, etc.
Last month, a federal appeals court shot down the FCC’s net neutrality rules, and that opened the door for a Wild West Internet, where the service providers could theoretically pick and choose the content its subscribers can access.
While that’s a rather radical hypothetical, it’s not outside the realm of possibility. And we’ve already begun to see the repercussions of net neutrality dying: the discussion of ISPs throttling Netflix, even if it hasn’t actually (err … officially) happened yet. There has been speculation of Verizon throttling Netflix, as well as Netflix paying Comcast to prevent throttling. But Verizon denies throttling and Netflix putting money directly in the pockets of Comcast is less about net neutrality and more about providing better service to paying subscribers of both services.
So far, net neutrality lives on – not bound by law, but by a sort of Mexican standoff between ISPs. Its future is mostly up in the air while the FCC works on establishing a new set of net neutrality rules.
And if it dies? It could change the Internet as the pleasurable time-waster we know today, shaped by the decisions of ISPs – whatever serves their greedy interests best.
A recent survey from Consumer Reports found that 71 percent of home Internet users would switch to another ISP if their “ISP started to block or charge extra to use high-bandwidth internet services.” Of that same sample, a surprising 10 percent said they would “drop Internet service entirely.”
Thing is, the brunt of that 71 percent group doesn’t actually have a second choice in ISPs. Many of them reside in areas which are essentially monopolies. It’s buckle up for the ride, wallet in hand, or do without.
As it stands, the biggest threat is from home Internet providers. But that doesn’t completely rule out similar charges, throttling, and blocking from mobile providers.
So I pose this question: what would you do if your wireless provider violates net neutrality rules?
I would probably pick the lesser of the evils and ride it out. It’s not exactly what I’d want to do, but in the line of work I do (almost entirely online), I can’t simply do without. At this point, I’d put my faith in T-Mobile taking the higher ground, as it has done for the last year now.
Take part in our poll below to let us know what you would do if your provider started charging extra for specific types of data, throttling services like Netflix, or blocking certain services.
Image via Consumer Reports