Net Neutrality: The Spark Notes Version

If you’re sitting here reading this article, you’ve no doubt heard the words ‘net neutrality’ at some point over the last few months. If you haven’t…..I don’t know why you’d be reading this article. Even though net neutrality may/will have vast impacts, I can’t say it’s a riveting topic of discussion. Nonetheless, I’ll do my best to highlight what it is and its potential impacts, while keeping a modicum of sarcastic humor in play to keep it spicy and worth your time.   

Overview

As of 12:30 something  this afternoon (1:30 EST, to be precise), the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) overturned net neutrality. Net Neutrality, in laymens terms, is simply the ability for you and I to go visit any website we want to, whenever we want to. It keeps the net neutral (e.g., you don’t have to pay to visit special websites and website internet search providers can’t speed up or block certain sites simply because they use more broadband and/or want you to pay more to see them). The repeal of net neutrality could/potentially/maybe/will allow any web service provider– think– AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, etc. to block content during your search simply because you didn’t pay up for it. 

Yup. Exactly. 

Cast of Characters

Ajit Pai: Chairman of the FCC

FCC Commissioners: Those that voted yay or nay. All politically affiliated. All are appointed to their positions and serve a term. The committee members encompass: a former U.S. Congresswoman;  the current General Counsel for the FCC; one who had a career working for different politicians in various capacities; and one who worked in the private sector. 

Analysis

It’s currently unclear what the full impact of this decision will be. If you read anything over the next few days and weeks that says something is “certain” check your source; Nothing is final. However, if you’re not in the mood to read 27 articles on what this could mean, here’s some highlights that you can speak about at Christmas brunch with Uncle Ned: 

  • It’ll take some time before things change for us.   No, your internet will not shut down tomorrow nor will you see a price hike in your internet package. It’ll still be the same frustratingly-slow-when-you-need-it-fast internet we all love and adore. This could also all be managed by the courts or the creation of more legislation to keep things status quo. Only time will tell. 
  • Netflix is not going away. The repeal of net neutrality–at a basic level–would allow your internet service provider to slow down services in order to get you (or the business you’re utilizing) to pay more. Love Netflix? Well, internet providers may decide that it’s own version of Netflix is better, so you’ll need to pay more to get a higher broadband connection for Netflix. In essence, it’ll “block” Netflix until you pay up. Fortunately, as the regs are currently written, any blocking of this kind will have to be publicly disclosed. Likely, so we can publicly shame our providers and tell them how they’re ruining our lives and our binge watching. 
  • It could impact the next generation of technological innovators.  One side of the argument proposes this is good for business. It levels the playing field and won’t allow big internet providers to rule the interwebs. You’re a small start-up and want to provide internet to rural areas where big companies see it as a waste of efforts? Great! You now have the ability. The other side of the argument says that it’s bad for business and innovation. This angle alleges new start-ups won’t be able to “pay to play.” As a start-up you can’t afford to negotiate with big providers, so you’ll never be able get your company visible and off the ground. 

At this point: we’re less than 5 hours post the FCC decision and headed into a holiday where the government will be taking vacay and not a lot will be moving along. Point being: don’t stress. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Netflix, Hulu, and HGTV (all the important things, clearly) are still within reach.

Also, just to speak to the title: if you’re under 25 and don’t have any idea what “spark notes” are… google it, and #blessyourheart. 

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