Monday was “Day 1 of a Worse Internet,” Slate wrote in a headline condemning the repeal of net neutrality rules that finally took effect that day.
But from the stories that came out in opposition the change, it is apparent net neutrality advocates have yet to find a compelling reason for the regulations they propose.
Slate’s April Glaser, who has covered the story from the pro-regulation angle since President Obama ordered the original regulations 2015, laid out the case.
“Beginning, well, now, your internet access could – emphasis on could – feel dramatically different than it did yesterday,” wrote Glaser.
“Under the new network neutrality rules, internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T are allowed to throttle traffic that travels over their network or even block access to entire websites as long as the companies alert subscribers in their terms of service that they reserve the right to do so.
“But since most people in the United States don’t have more than one or two internet providers to choose from for broadband service, if users don’t wish to accept those terms, many won’t have anywhere else to go for their internet. Without net neutrality rules stopping them, internet providers will also be able to charge websites a fee to reach users faster.”
This amounts to a “two-way toll” for providers that allows them to collect from both subscribers and websites “that want priority access to users.”
Glaser referred to the net neutrality rules, which restrict how providers and websites can operate, as “the open-internet regulations,” unaware of the irony.
If Congress won’t act – which is unlikely since the House has a 23-vote majority for Republicans and President Trump’s appointees to the Federal Communications Commission were the people who overturned the regulations – and the more-than-20 lawsuits already planned don’t pan out, she said “internet providers will be able to throttle traffic and block access to websites as they wish.”
This would set off a variety of calamities because “companies may well start to toy with connection speeds in more elusive ways.”
Comcast could “make a special deal to speed up their customers’ access to Netflix, that change in load times may be subtle. But it will still give Netflix an added boost over a competitor like Hulu, inspiring its customers to jump ship. If the New York Times [which has a paywall] loads faster than your local newspaper’s website, it may be a reason for you to stop checking in regularly on its hometown reporting.”
In 2005, Canadian Internet provider Telus blocked the website of a union that was threatening to strike against the country.
In 2012, AT&T announced it would block U.S. users’ access to FaceTime on iPhones unless they paid for a higher data plan.
But AT&T was unable to carry out the plan.
“The company reversed course after consumer advocates sent complaints to the FCC,” Slate reported.
Media outlets failed to mention the string of Obama-affiliated corporations that benefited from the rules, including Amazon, Facebook and Google.
Glaser wrote that the “great promise of the Internet – that there’s no telling what someone might create next – may become an even more distant dream.”
This ignores evidence that the opposite is true – the regulations themselves curtailed the search for the next big thing on the web.
James Gattuso of the Heritage Foundation wrote that the Obama-era rules meant higher costs for consumers because they exempt web providers from market forces and “prohibit internet service providers from paying their full share of costs, leaving the consumer to pay more of the cost of building and maintaining the web.”
As for the paid prioritization Glaser decried, Gattuso said this is “not usually a bad thing.”
“In fact, it exists in almost every product market in America. Try buying an airline ticket, gas for your car, or even new clothes, and you will find this kind of differentiation going on. And they almost always operate to the benefit of consumers.”