OPINION COLUMNS

Feds threaten to nickel and dime internet access

By Racey Burden | Published Saturday, November 25, 2017
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I hate toll roads. I hate mapping routes to take around them, I hate trying to dig through my purse for exact change, I hate that I have to pay for a service that taxes should already take care of. I just hate the very concept, and I would bet that I’m not alone in that.

Well, if the U.S. Federal Communications Commission votes to dismantle net neutrality regulations Dec. 14, the internet is on the fast track to being full of toll roads.

Racey Burden

Net neutrality protections classify broadband as a utility, meaning internet service providers can’t charge certain companies more for broadband access – essentially, all data on the internet is treated equally.

Why should you care? You should care because if AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, the biggest proponents of ending net neutrality, get their way, then they can charge companies whatever they want for broadband access. Sites that use more broadband, like Netflix, will have to raise their rates to pass along costs to consumers.

The door will also be open for these massive companies to throttle (slow down) or just block access to any site they don’t like – which has happened before, see Comcast versus BitTorrent in 2007 or Comcast versus Netflix, AT&T blocking FaceTime, etc. These companies will be able to further regulate the speed at which sites download, which might as well kill any website that can’t afford to pay their new broadband fees – a major blow to internet start-ups.

Perhaps the thing consumers should fear most is a rise in overall cost for internet use – right now we all pay for wifi from our service provider, and that covers every site under the sun. But other countries, those without net neutrality regulations, have seen providers split costs into packages, much like your cable provider. Under those packages, you’ll find yourself paying specifically for your email, then another fee for video streaming sites, and another one for social media, and another one for music streaming and so on. Those against net neutrality might argue that won’t happen here, but come on – have you ever tried speaking to a representative of one of those companies? When has anyone ever known AT&T, Comcast or Verizon to care about customer service or to put the consumers first?

Current FCC Chair Ajit Pai, who is pushing the end of net neutrality, is a former Verizon attorney, so we know whose side he’s on, and it isn’t the side of the consumer. I personally don’t like the idea of one man (or a few companies angling for a monopoly) pushing their agenda on the open space of information and ideas that is the internet, and I’ve already sent emails to the FCC opposing deregulation. Two of the five FCC members who have a vote on the issue are already decided – they won’t vote to dismantle net neutrality. The three who are in favor or undecided can be reached at their emails: Ajit Pai, ajit.pai@fcc.gov; Michael O’Rielly, mike.orielly@fcc.gov; Brendan Carr, brendan.carr@fcc.gov.

I would encourage you to also contact your representatives in Congress. Tell them you like the internet how it is and don’t want to see it controlled by a limited number of people.

Racey Burden is a Messenger reporter.

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