Before, we wrote about Big Brother tracking your activities with invasive technology, but it’s not just the government that wants to control you. The telecom industry enables how we use the internet, from different bundles to higher speeds. And right now, these telecom corporations are celebrating the end of net neutrality.

What is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality means all data is equal in the eyes of internet providers, meaning providers must provide equal speeds and access to users, preventing manipulation tactics. During Obama’s presidency, net neutrality was ruled and companies were prohibited from discriminating against customers, intentionally slowing down service or enabling faster speeds for higher prices. Companies had been long controlling customers, blocking access to certain sites and apps or heavily censoring content and net neutrality was meant to change that. Until this year, when President Trump repealed net neutrality and it’s something we should all be worried about. When telecom companies have total control over service access, they control the market and pricing. It’s ridiculous to think corporations have to turn to complete dictatorship to make some money, especially in an industry where the top provider made more than $160 billion in 2017. Which drives the question, why does net neutrality need to repealed?

Do we still have it?

We had net neutrality for a few years, but it’s gone now and the government is fighting to keep the repeal intact. Trump appointed Ajit Pai (a former Verizon lawyer) as head of the FCC and upholding the repeal, even though most Americans disagree with Pai. Service plans haven’t completely changed yet, but telecom companies have a bad history of messing with customers and it’s about to get worse. The Santa Clara County Fire Department is suing Verizon. But why? California has been battling the Mendocino Complex Fire (a fire complex made up of 2 wildfires) since July and firefighters are putting their lives on the line to prevent further damage and death. While trying to map their location on the job, firefighters noticed their internet access had slowed down to 1/200 of the original speed they had. Instead of helping the firefighters in a critical crisis, Verizon instead suggested they upgrade to a more expensive plan for higher speeds. Verizon purposely slowed down the service to force an upgrade, even after being alerted to the situation.

Now the fire department and local governments are fighting back, arguing the repeal of net neutrality is endangering lives. Before anyone could reach out about these issues, but now people don’t have a way to contact the FCC, they’re redirected to the FTC.

If you’re not worried about losing net neutrality, you’re thinking too literally. It’s not just about the internet, it’s about our rights.

What would happen without it?

Giving network provider companies the reins means they have complete control of content and access. A plan will dictate the cap of your data usage, at which point your provider forcibly slow down internet speed. If you want more, you have to pay more. You’ll have to pay to use certain apps and sites. And it’s not just users that get hit with the limits. What about online retailers? Online banking? How will other industries react when their customer base is slowed down or cut off by these limiting plans? How will the consequences ripple out? What industry won’t suffer?

Countries that do not have net neutrality pay very high prices for data. And in many instances, that also raises the cost of owning and using a cellphone. We already have $1000 phones, how much more do they want us to pay? Sure, that giant brick from the 80’s was way more expensive, but they didn’t have smart phones and apps. Telecom has the advantage of knowing that so many people  and corporations rely on the internet for pretty much everything. Entertainment, contact, business, health, finances, and everything else that’s online.

Portugal is often used as an example of life without net neutrality. Do you like watching Netflix, texting, looking through Instagram, playing a game, and checking your email in a day? Too bad, you need to pay for 6 different plans that grants you access to certain apps and sites (not including the usage cap).

This is what unregulated telecom looks like. Your service quality and capabilities will depend which tier you pay for. If you can’t pay for the best, most expensive plan, you’ll service gets capped. Once you reach the cap, either stop using the internet or shell out more cash. It’s a mammoth step backwards from net neutrality and it’s paving the way of losing certain freedoms.

What now?

California is fighting to keep net neutrality, and it could indicate the future for the entire country. Other states and local legislations are also gearing up to fight against the FCC

Like other industries, there are a handful of cable and phones companies that are completely monopolizing net broadband while steadily increasing prices. But who is this truly good for? Let’s be real, there are more cons than pros with repealed net neutrality.

 

 

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