Today the FCC announced its' plans to roll back the rules on Internet Service Providers, commonly called Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is the idea that an ISP can't descriminate against the data on your network. This means that they can't look at what websites you're using slow down or speed up connections depending on what it is. If they were allowed to do this, it could go wrong in several ways. Comcast could slow down a network with content they disagree with, or that competes with services they offer, unless you pay them more. They could separate websites into different categories and charge you bundle prices for those categories like they do cable channels.
Right now, thanks to the current Net Neutrality laws, they can't do they. They can only charge you for how much you use, not the content. Similar to how your water or electricity bill works. If you use 3 gallons of water to take a shower, it costs the same as if you use 3 callons of water to water your lawn. The water company can't charge you a different price for that water based on how you use it.
Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner, and all the other large ISPs would love to change this. They'd like to double dip. They'd just love to charge you for how much you use, and what you use it on. To make matters worse, most of the large ISPs also sell services that many internet companies compete with them on. So they can slow Netflix, YouTube, or Hulu down so that their cable subscription looks more appealing. Of course Netflix could pay to get around the artificial slowing, but then they'll pass that cost onto the consumer anyway.
There are ways to combat this. First of all, we can make a comment at the FCC's website. We can also try to get our local governments to make municipal networks to enforce Net Neutrality on a local level, along with offering an alternative to the large ISPs we're stuck with.
I'm working on that right now. A friend and I spoke to the Keizer City Council a while back and got lukewarm response. The news today has reinvigorated my interest in pursuing a municipal network in Keizer. We've since started a website to organize our work. I'm going to start a Facebook page to more easily reach out to people and get a conversation going in the town. We can make this happen, we just have to work at it.
I encourage people to talk to their friends and families about Net Neutrality and work on getting the word out to their representatives that this is unacceptable. The internet is important and needs to remain a fair and free place.