By Carl Weiss
|Soup Nazi at Dewey Square - Boston (Photo credit: jeffcutler)|
No soup for you!
We all remember the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld, the restaurant owner who would summarily refuse to serve a customer over even the smallest of perceived slights. Well that’s what is in store for nearly everyone who connects to the Internet if some big players in the cable and telecom industries have their way.
Way back in 1995 when the Internet was young, the rules were established that guaranteed that nobody could have undue influence over the speed at which information was disseminated online. What this meant to anyone surfing the web was that the big conglomerates that already had a stranglehold on the airwaves wouldn’t be allowed to monopolize cyberspace. So from the mid 90’s to the present the Internet has had one speed limit for all. Online businesses large and small were able to prosper. However, recent events proposed by a small number of cable and telecom conglomerates are threatening the way we will all be able to access the Internet—and not for the better.
AT&T Claims Net Neutrality Would Ruin the Internet
In a June 18 article by the Washington Post, AT&T upped the ante by claiming that strong net neutrality rules such as those in Europe would actually hurt the Internet.
“AT&T is among the most vocal critics of reclassification. In a recent blog post, company exec Jim
|AT&T Logo Parody (white background) (Photo credit: ElectronicFrontierFoundation)|
Cicconi argued that reclassifying Internet providers — placing them under Title II of the Communications Act instead of the more lenient Title I — wouldn't do anything to prevent the rise of Internet fast lanes, because embedded in Title II is a loophole that lets ISPs manipulate some traffic so long as it's not "unjust" or "unreasonable." If the ISPs can successfully claim that Internet fast lanes are necessary for, say, managing the load on their networks, they might be able to wriggle out of a ban on fast lanes altogether, defeating the whole point of reclassification, according to AT&T.”
AT&T is not the only company that proposes eliminating net neutrality. The Post article goes onto explore the differences between Title I and Title II rules. But the most telling argument is actually contained in the video at the end of the article which states: “If ISP’s like Verizon get their way, they’ll sell a fast lane on the information superhighway to companies willing to pay for it. That two-sided market could leave companies who don’t pay with slower speeds. And if things get ugly, ISP’s would be able to block their sites entirely.”
Clearly this would have the power to affect the success or failure of every business online. This pay-to
|T-Mobile, Sign. 6/2014 (Photo credit: JeepersMedia)|
-play scenario would hold every Internet user hostage to their ISP’s. Think that can’t happen? Well it already has happened on a small scale for every T-Mobile user who streams music. Here is a quote from a recent quote from Time.com.
“Instead of treating all music services equally, T-Mobile has decided that the most popular streaming music services should get better treatment. If you have a limited data plan on T-Mobile, you won’t come any closer to your monthly cap when using Spotify, Pandora, Rhapsody, iTunes Radio, iHeartRadio, Slacker Radio and Samsung Milk Music. This is the most insidious type of net neutrality violation, because it’s being pitched as a benefit. Most users stand to gain from the free data, so they may not even care about the slippery slope they’re on.” http://time.com/2901142/t-mobile-unlimited-music-net-neutrality/
While not technically a net neutrality violation, by playing favorites, T-Mobile is sliding down a very slippery slope which if backed by the power of law could mean a very different Internet in the not so distant future. The problem is that the law itself has lost much of its power to protect the consumer’s rights after an appellate court threw out the original version of the regulations back in January.
A June 20 article by pcworld.com stated that, “Congressional Republicans are intent on derailing the FCC’s efforts to reinstate net neutrality rules. Conservative economists and telecom experts have
|US Congress (Photo credit: jessie owen)|
been pushing antitrust law as an alternative to new rules on which the FCC is currently seeking public comment. Some Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee said that the FCC should abandon its efforts to reinstate its net neutrality rules and instead rely on the Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice to police net neutrality.”
If that were to happen then the only way that violations could be addressed would be via the country’s antitrust laws. This would open the floodgates to ISP-designed online toll-roads. If you think your cable bills are high now, if the current FCC rules concerning net neutrality fall by the wayside, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Not only would your access to the Internet be impinged upon by a few well-heeled companies, but fees for a number of services that you subscribe to online would also rise in order to offset their cost of doing business online. Gone would be the days of free online phone services like Skype. Streaming video services like Netflix would cost much more than it does now and even YouTube might be forced to charge to view videos on their service.
If you still believe the cable companies’ pap that they are the ones being wronged, check out this post on boingboing.net:
Cable lobbyist-turned-FCC-Chairman Tom Wheeler can promise to override state laws prohibiting publicly owned ISPs, but it doesn't matter if all the big cities are locked into ten-year franchise agreements with cable and phone companies. As an Electronic “Frontier Foundation editorial points out, US mayors can and should take steps to make municipal broadband a reality, putting competitive pressure on America's foot-dragging, worst-of-breed ISPs. Many cities are sitting on a gold-mine of "dark fiber" that can be lit up to provide blazing-fast connections, and even in places where state law prohibits municipal Internet service, there are loopholes, like the one that Chattanooga, TN used to light up a gigabit network that's 100 times faster than most Americans can get. Unfortunately, many cities have faced serious barriers to their efforts to light up dark fiber or extend existing networks. Take Washington D.C., where the city’s fiber is bound up in a non-compete contract with Comcast, keeping the network from serving businesses and residents.”
That’s right sports fans, not only are the cable companies trying to take away your access to low-cost, high-speed Internet access, but they are doing everything in their power to make sure that cities across the country can’t provide municipally owned and operated fiber-optic access with superior speeds to businesses and citizens alike.
So, it seems that when it comes to giving the consumers a fair deal on Internet access, the cable conglomerates are trying to make the Soup Nazi seem like a Good Samaritan. If this prospect bothers you then I strongly suggest you write your congressman and the FCC.