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Net Neutrality: The Price of Silence

Posted about 7 days ago by Andy Lechlak

Posted in Business & Investing, New and Science, Medicine, & Technology | Tagged with censorship, digital divide, internet, Internet Service Providers, net neutrality, open internet and throttling

Hi, my name is Andy. I'm the Digital Strategist at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library. I do not like politics, but net neutrality is far more than politics.

Before we dive right in - let’s talk about three buzzwords around net neutrality. 

Internet Service Provider - ISP

This is the company that provides internet access: Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, Frontier, Buckeye Cable System.

Throttle

Bandwidth throttling is intentionally slowing down or speeding up internet service. 

Censorship

Internet censorship is the suppression of words, images, ideas, websites, or services. 

So why is net neutrality important?

Net neutrality ensures that the internet stays open and safe. It ensures that ISPs treat your internet and your neighbors internet the same regardless of content, website, application, device (phone, laptop, tablet), or method of communication. That's not to mention how much larger the digital divide could become for middle and low income households. 

If that's clear, jump to how you can take action. Otherwise let’s create two fake scenarios.

#1 Airline Shopping

We are Charlie. A 20, 30, 40 something who is going to Florida to hang out with grandma during the holidays. Glancing at our iPhone X, it unlocks, and we load up Safari through Verizon LTE. We type in kayak.com and nothing loads. Weird - it has always worked before. We then decide to go straight to the source: Delta Airlines. We’ve always had good luck with Delta in the past. We type in delta.com. . . we wait . . . and wait . . . and wow...is....it.....slow.

After trying to search for flights for 20 minutes and the internet chugging at an unreasonable pace, we wait until later that night. The same slow loading screen occurs at Delta.com. Alright so Delta must be broken. We switch over to United Airlines. It might not be the airline we wanted but at least the flight information is loading. We book our flight and get to see grandma. Rock on. Her cookies are worth any price.

What Charlie didn’t know in this hypothetical scenario was that Verizon and United had made a deal. 

Verizon would throttle internet for other airlines or websites that compared airline prices. 

Verizon would not throttle for people going to United Airlines. 

United would give Verizon a kick back for being a good partner

Now I’m not saying all corporations would be this vindictive or manipulative, but the possibility exists. That’s why this is scary. 

#2 Streaming Content

What if videos streamed at different speeds for different internet service providers? So you would have to use Verizon's internet to stream Netflix smoothly, but if you use Hulu then you'll want to have Comcast internet or it will be choppy. What about Youtube, Vimeo, Comedy Central, The Onion, Huffington Post, ABC, CBS, or Internet Archive? As you can see this could get complicated - even more complicated than your Cable or Dish package.

ServiceVerizonComcastAT&T
NetflixXX
HuluXX
YoutubeX
VimeoX
ABCX
CBSX

So what can you do? - Act before December 14th

Inform yourself. Not everyone needs to have the same opinion, but make sure you are informed.

Contact Congress. I used Battle for the Net, which includes:

  • A form to fill out.
  • Phone numbers for Congress.
  • A script to read when calling.
  • Links to Twitter profiles for Congress members.

To Learn More

FCC Unveils Plan To Repeal Net Neutrality Rules - NPR

F.C.C. Plans Net Neutrality Repeal in a Victory for Telecoms - NYT

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