First it was the oil industry, then it was railroads, and now we’re about to relive those days with the internets.
Lots of talk on this subject going around the web. Here’s basically what’s happening:
- The guy that’s in charge of the Federal Communications Commission, the regulatory body that makes rules for things like TV, phones and the Internet, is proposing new rules that would allow cable and phone companies to charge certain businesses extra money to get their stuff to you faster. This is sometimes called the Internet Fast Lane.
- This is bad because it means these companies that own the wires and cables around the city that make it possible for you to get internets at home could end up giving preferential treatment to certain companies, like, say Netflix, who pony up more money to make sure your movie doesn’t sit there on your TV buffering and being all annoying to watch and stuff.
- And guessit? Companies like Netflix have already started ponying up, and that means their prices will go up!
- But, this is also bad because this means little companies, the next Netflix or Amazon, might get muscled out of town before we ever hear about them.
- And, this is all going down because Verizon sued the government, saying the old rules, the ones that stated that all internet traffic should be treated equally (that’s what net neutrality is) were just not fair to them. Because money.
Here’s the other big thing about Net Neutrality in the news, the Comcast thing:
- So Comcast, the biggest cable company in America, wants to buy Time Warner Cable, one of the other biggest cable companies in America.
- Everybody kind of hates these companies because they provide barely good enough service for increasingly higher prices, with few options to go by because everyone has internet now and they’re no longer interested in growing their customer bases - just swiping them from DirecTV (and this is also because they are usually your only choice for phone or internet).
- But wait, there’s more! This is how it relates to net neutrality: Comcast already owns NBC Universal - this is called “vertical integration”, which means a company owns just about every critical point in the machinery that goes from shooting the TV show at the Hollywood, USA, studio to the customer at home watching that TV show through their —— *buffering* —- Comcast internet.
- Comcast will hold an even bigger share of the consumer market for internets. What do companies that have all the customers do? Maybe they could decide just how much internet and TV and home phone should cost for everyone, maybe they could drive those prices up over time, or maybe, thanks to the proposed new FCC rules (see above) they could give preferential treatment to just their cool NBC Universal services! I guess Fox or Disney will just have to go buy their own cable company, then. Tough luck, Mickey!
- But, don’t forget that, thanks to age-old agreements between municipalities and telco companies, depending on where you live, you can basically only get one cable company. Touché.
What’s more to all of this, cable and phone companies just aren’t very interested in improving their networks. Instead of stringing up better wires and cable around town, like fiber optic ones that can carry more data and Facebook status updates than you can shake a stick at, they want to “throttle” or reduce certain internet traffic’s ability to squeeze through their aging copper wires. Keep in mind, you only need to improve a system if you’re having trouble getting people to use it - since most consumers don’t have a choice, there is little incentive to improve the cables and wires and work with cities and towns to make things better. Instead, what makes more sense for a saturated marketplace is to start charging for “premium service” instead of making things better for everyone. It’s like when they convert some lanes of a busy freeway in to toll lanes. The same thing happened with cell phone companies, who used to offer unlimited data to get us all to excitedly sign up, then turned around and said “there’s not enough bandwidth to handle all these Angry Bird’s and Snapchats, so now you have to pay extra if you want to go over X gigabytes of Angry Birds”. So, just like these data caps for your awesome cell phone that could easily stream every Netflix movie ever if the network was just improved a little, the rest of us poor shlubs will have to wait in “basic” traffic while fat cats use the premium fast lane (worried about your cell phone data cap, don’t worry, just run home and switch to your Wi-Fi… which comes to you from those other companies that want to, yep, do caps, too). Comcast, Verizon, Charter, etc., they all make more money without having to make the system itself better. Yay!
Call me pessimistic, but this is how it works, friends. For you history buffs, does it remind you of anything? Say Oil Barons and Railroad Tycoons? Uh huh.