Mostly stringent upon the financial and monopolistic areas of the internet, net neutrality’s downfall deals primarily with the way internet service providers (ISPs) will be granting access, most likely with higher payment costs. What you need to know about net neutrality, as an individual idea, is that it stands for a cross-internet equality based system making ISPs treat any and all digital content without added privileges or specific surcharges. All of this will no sooner be changed thanks to a December vote made by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which moved to repeal all access provisions granted by ISPs.
Plenty of debates, questions, and deeper, or more metaphysical understandings into the events following the fall of net neutrality have long been percolating, but what does this all mean? Realistically, while not anytime soon, the fall of net neutrality will certainly change the way we all experience online endeavors, whether they be social interactions, consumer based buying, or watching cat videos on YouTube (my personal favorite). All jokes aside, these following effects are what to expect with the end of net neutrality, or more accurately, when the internet goes down...
Slow But Sure Changes
In the last decade alone, network neutrality as per regulated under the US has undergone nearly six different changes. Telecoms can become utilities again, only if future FCC administrations reclassify them as such, but until then much in the way of both political and public pressures are underway.
It will be slow at first, but the end of net neutrality will begin to reshape identity, globalization, and digital communication, along with a host of other changes, like quicker loading for certain streaming services, fewer startups will launch, plus a multitude of larger costs will be extracted by both ISPs and big-name corporations. These various happenings will largely effect the way we communicate and operate online, as well as reshaping the fundamental structure of online media.
Unregulated Broadband Providers
Since Ajit Pai, Republican and Chairman of the FCC, overturned the 2015 Open Internet Order in a party-line vote on December 14th, 2017, any legal authority or potential regulation the FCC may have had before is now long lost. This is disastrous in the end of net neutrality, for broadband providers can now fine tune the rules to better suit their interests.
This means telecom and common carrier corporations, like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast can all reimagine and alter business models without these regulation concerns hanging over their heads. Comcast, for one, could potentially slow or even block unfavorable sites while prioritizing their own branded content without even batting an eye.
Fast and Slow Lanes
Fast lanes and slow lanes can eventually be designed through more data caps and higher bandwidth limits (which is the rate of an upload/download speed). Providers can then utilize paid prioritization for varied content sources. This also means that the ISPs with media entities can theoretically give their own content free reign, like AT&T streaming video suddenly looking much clearer than that of YouTube's.
It could also detail a more subtle turn for how we view media mergers, such as the potential AT&T and Time Warner deal, or Comcast and NBCUniversal. The end of net neutrality basically calls for the rise in power hungry, multi-layered businesses, like Google, Netflix, and Facebook, which can pay a higher fee for swifter broadband speeds and higher bandwidth limits, then providing said ISPs with new revenue structures. This, obviously, leads to...
Struggling Small Net Businesses
When detailing the end of net neutrality, one also has to look at the bigger picture revolving around online consumerism and internet business. As such, without the protective agent of net neutrality, as aforementioned deregulation takes hold, larger and more powerful ISPs can decide speeds, making content load either quickly or slower than normal, therefore allowing larger internet businesses the ability to buy their way in.
Net neutrality has already allowed reliable packaging services for some companies, like health care and financial banking, but net neutrality advocates have long been pushing for a less constrictive paid prioritization for connection services. Internet speeds, both in terms of consumerism and social media, will largely be effected by this trend.
Blocked and Throttled Content
Unregulated broadband providers also means that content can be blocked and throttled without warning (or reason). This can lead to the prioritization of paid content, so as to benefit either one or multiple ISPs on one channel, or through the blocking of specific content, traffic, or even sites entirely.
Regarded as an "information service," fees paid to telecom services for website accessibility and other online services came under fire during a 2013 court case with Verizon over net neutrality. The telecom company eventually won the suit, for they claimed that preventing users from accessing any website or online service was (and still is) feasible when said content providers aren't paying the telecom. This ideal, now pretty much set in stone with the end of net neutrality, can lead to exploiting by telecoms for ringing in more financial gains and ridding the market of newer rivals.
There a great variety of net neutrality advocates, usually held under an advocacy group, for which argue and debate for the need of better regulations and action in the world of net neutrality. One of the most important and highly feared concerns in the fall of net neutrality is internet censorship through telecom and ISPs.
This isn't anything new. Check out Tim Wu's extraordinary paper from 2003, titled Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination, which details the ways in which all of the top 16 DSL and cable providers could block content they deemed "offensive" and "immoral." These were seen in certain cases involving the sale of guns and other more criminalistic endeavors, but the overall platform of internet censorship by that of telecoms can mean that some sites still available on the internet may not be accessible to certain users.
Tighter Data Caps
Prices will also see a huge rise in the end of net neutrality. Unfortunately, this is not for tax services or the benefit of global concerns, but really goes hand in hand with telecoms and their ability to now control the market. High priced plans, imposed caps, and various other surcharges are posited for the future of the internet.
While some stipulate this may be a good thing, and in some cases having a variety of priced packaging and broadband options is a good thing, there's still some inherent issues with the entire structure of these new net neutrality rules. By designing so-called caps, or "zero rating" data streaming, telecoms will make customers pay more in expensive internet packages, with features that may or may not even be granted.
Higher Broadband Costs
As tighter data caps are put into place, so too will telecoms begin to enlist negative market possibilities, like ignoring low-cost plans. ISPs won't have to embrace the lower costing service packages, when they can simply raise prices on their already existing clientele.
This form of effect in the end of net neutrality will also then call for a higher competitive field. Mobile communications and the technology behind it, once sophisticated, can provide more choices for consumers to appreciate their content, as seen in the all-new over the air technology, which can also be utilized through broadcast TV companies to block throttle and speed changes made by ISPs.
Just the same as telecoms can toggle the speeds and bandwidth of certain content providers, they can also jack up the price whenever they see fit. This then reverts how we even view quality internet services, as individuals and smaller business will suffer tremendously with limited resources.
Despite the face that so-called "fast lanes" are more of a concept than a physical reality, ISPs can still decide on which companies and individuals have better broadband capabilities, no matter how much they pay. With the FCC viewing the internet as something other than a utility, like water and electricity, this now gives telecoms the ability to decide who gets standard services, rather than less or more quality bandwidth.
Beyond even the most simple effects that the end of net neutrality can provide, some have gone so far as to claim that it could bring on a splintered internet, or a form of fractured global digital commons. Paid packaging for internet usage could mean a huge fall in internet populations. This comes from Charles Palmer, who argues:
"The FCC ruling may be the catalyst for the ‘splinternet’ thanks to an increasingly uneven application of regulatory regimes across multiple regions, where the only real beneficiaries will be lawyers."
Countering the new rules of the FCC, California and Washington state lawmakers have already begun a "paywall," or floating legislation to benefit equal access and to bring back an open internet.