Understanding Net Neutrality

How will changes in Net Neutrality affect the way we use the Internet and streaming? The truth is that nobody really knows how. There has been a ton of speculation and hand-wringing over the issue with some near dystopian versions of what the Internet could be in the future as people interpret what could happen if this and that.

At the crux of the Net Neutrality argument is the worry that ending the current regulations will lead ISP’s, which as we know are for the most part, cable companies, to set up what have been labeled internet fast lanes for large companies in an attempt to squeeze more profit out of their control of the Internet’s infrastructure. There have been op-eds all over the media expressing concern that the next disruptive company will get buried in favor of content controlled by big cable.

Could this happen? Yes. Will it happen? I don’t know. It’s easy to assume that this is exactly what will happen because of the way that cable companies have handled themselves over the past 20 years. They have been paying a price for this too. But people might be missing an important point, While the current set up may end it’s not as though Comcast will just start making the rules for the Internet. Oversight of internet protections would be handled by the Federal Trade Commission.

Don’t underestimate the power of the courts, Congress and the rest of the machinery of American society either and that doesn’t even include all of the companies with a vested interest in not wanting to deal with cable companies trying to force them into some kind of pay for play situation.

One of the big worries I keep running across is that companies like Verizon or Comcast will try to squeeze consumers by charging them extra fees to access Netflix or YouTube while at the same time offering their own content delivery without a charge.  Will the NFL, Netflix, Amazon, Disney, Time Warner and more really be held hostage by ISPs? Will they allow their customers to be skimmed in that way and hurt their business as customers decide to watch all of the same content via the ISP? Fat chance. If Comcast or any other large ISP honestly tries to start asking for big fees from Internet-based content providers or tries to crush them by screwing over customers the big guns will go after the ISP’s for anticompetitive practices. And they will win. They have a vested interest in not paying more money to have their content seen. Especially if there is an obvious link between the interest in setting up fast lanes and a cable company pushing its own content delivery service.

The Internet has become too essential for the economy and peoples basic communication, public safety and so much more about modern life in the United States. It’s not as though only a handful of people in the country use it like back when my father had a wonky white modem sitting on the kitchen table with the wall phone hung on it. everybody uses the Internet. I think that the fact that big businesses will most definitely fight this kind of thing will take care of the startups too. If consumer advocates worry that regular people are going to get bullied in this, which is understandable, the big companies like Amazon that have built their business model around the current understanding of the Internet are not exactly going to say “Okay How much money do you need from us to continue to stream Thursday Night Football?”

Relax. There is no reason to spend time and energy fighting a war that hasn’t started. And if it does start the front lines will feature the biggest names in the business along with consumer advocacy groups. Most importantly understand that administrations change, FCC directors change, members of Congress change. The people have a 100 percent effect on this. So if this is really something that fires you up, don’t waste time crying on Facebook, Vote. There is an election next November.