Net Neutrality is a simple concept: the Internet should be a level playing field. Everyone and every company should get the same level of service. You should always be able to access any lawful content you want at any time. You do not expect to have to pay more for gasoline to drive to the mall than to drive to grandma’s house. You do not expect a policeman to stop you and, depending on your destination, inform you of a different speed limit, or prohibit you from even going there.
This might seem obvious to you, and you might think that competitive pressures on the companies providing the actual connection to the Internet to your home or company, the ISPs (Internet Service Providers), would make this not an issue. But you would be wrong.
There are just six telecommunication giants that control almost all Internet connections in the US: AT&T, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Time Warner, and Verizon. The few smaller local companies need to rely on one of these six to get outside their local area. In many areas, there is only one or two of these giants available, making them virtual if not actual monopolies. In my area, you have the choice of Comcast or Verizon.
These companies all have the technology to read your emails, social media messages, and anything else sent unencrypted over the Internet. And, in fact, they have done so, and taken action based on message content. AT&T jammed a rock star’s political protest, Comcast throttled online file-sharing through BitTorrent, and Verizon censored NARAL Pro-Choice America among a number of such actions.
On the surface, the giants claim to be all for Net Neutrality. Comcast has created a big ad campaign touting their commitment to “full net neutrality,” which they never define. What it seems to mean is their commitment to follow the 2010 FCC (Federal Communication Commission) rules, which include both no-blocking and anti-discrimination provisions. However, earlier this year a federal court overturned the FCC rule on a technicality. In any event, those rules expire in 2018. The reason for this ad campaign: so that regulators will not use Comcast’s anti-regulation attitude against them as they seek to merge with Time Warner Cable.
In my view, the solution is for the FCC to redefine broadband so it comes under the same rules of access and availability that cover traditional phones, which the federal court actually hinted they should do.
You might also check out the ACLU’s position.
The last word:
These giant ISPs need to be regulated. We have personally had really bad experiences with both Verizon and Comcast. We had a copper landline, which annoyed Verizon. They are trying to eliminate all copper connections, both to save money and to get out from under the FCC regulations they face with landlines, such as they must serve everyone. They offered all kinds of incentives to move us to FIOS. After our copper phone line was out for four days due to a FIOS failure, we abandoned our copper line and went to Comcast XFINITY. In the first 30 days with Comcast we have had two days with no phone, Internet or TV, plus numerous other “minor” outages with one or both TVs.
The merger of Comcast and Time Warner will bring a new level to customer service: both rank at the top of customer service complaints.
This is another occasion where I agree with President Obama.
Keep your sense of humor.