Two words: Net Neutrality
Most people don’t understand what “net neutrality” is about, but it’s going to have a huge impact on your day to day life very soon.
I hope you’re ready to start paying a lot more money for your home’s internet access.
Sadly, the internet is complicated and boring. So let’s start with a more fun example.
Way back in the day before airplanes and the Model T, people got around by railroad. Lots of small local railroad companies were created and each one owned the local railroad tracks. Because each company had a small percentage of the total US railroad tracks they all had to negotiate fair rates for each other’s trains to cross their competitors tracks or they would risk getting cut off from the majority of the train tracks. Over the years, a few railroad companies started to grow and buy out their competition to form national companies. This is normal in a capitalist market; it’s called “consolidation.” This was mostly ok, until the Vanderbilts decided to take advantage of the situation. Did you ever wonder where the Vanderbilt fortune came from? Here’s how they made their money…
See there was only one railroad bridge in and out of NYC, the Hudson River Bridge. Since NYC was the largest US port at the time and Vanderbilt owned the only bridge he decided to single handedly blockade the port of NYC from all compeeting railroad companies.
Oh and if Vanderbilt didn’t personally like you, guess when your stuff got on a train to get in or out of the port of NY… never. It didn’t matter what you made, if Vanderbilt didn’t like you, your competitors got cheap easy access to the country’s largest port and your stuff sat at the train depot to rot.
Vanderbilt used his control of this choke point to make himself very wealthy on the backs of average consumers who would have to pay higher prices for anything that had parts or pieces that entered or left NYC by train. He used this money to buy even more competing railroads and create/leverage more and more choke points in the nations railway infrastructure.
Eventually, when anti-trust regulations were created there was a rule inserted about “common carriage.” It made it illegal to do things like Vanderbilt did and refuse to carry your competitors (or charge them extra and exorbitant fees) on important national infrastructure.
Later these kinds of rules were applied to AT&T and the “Baby Bells” as they tried to leverage choke points in the nation’s telephone infrastructure.
Fast forward to today; the same thing is happening to the internet right now. There is a choke point in the national internet infrastructure called the “last mile;” the actual part of the internet that connects to your home. Most of us only have one option for wired high speed internet at home and at work; the local cable company.
Comcast is the biggest owner of this infrastructure controlling almost 1/4 of all home or office internet connections, and 40% of all connections over 25 Mbps.
So tomorrow Comcast may decide that Netflix is not allowed on their network, or that if you want Netflix you or Netflix should have to pay Comcast more (because Netflix competes with Comcast cable TV offerings and their production studio NBC).
Comcast could even decide to block the websites for Fox, CNN, CBS and other news networks because they compete with NBC News! And you would be powerless to do anything about it because it would be totally legal.
Comcast could even do this to you:
Net neutrality is common carriage for the internet’s choke points. It makes that kind of behavior illegal.
Think it’s just a theoretical concern? Think again. It was happening before the net neutrality rules were put in place. Comcast throttled Netflix and slowed the video traffic (aka reduced video quality) to their subscribers by almost 30% until Netflix agreed to pay Comcast Millions of dollars in extra fees just so Comcast customers (the people who were already paying for internet service) could see Netflix movies.
Basically, getting rid of net neutrality means higher internet bills for homes, and the end of new innovative or disruptive internet startups. Why? Because when Google, Amazon, Facebook, and all those companies were brand new they were not in a position to pay Millions in access fees. The next new startup won’t be able to either; so it will die on the vine with users never knowing about it because it was blocked…
Trump has claimed Net Neutrality is a “government takeover” of the internet;. It isn’t ; see point 6. If anything the opposite is true because without Net Neutrality NBC/Comcast could decide to block competing networks (conservative or otherwise) like Fox.
Trump’s appointments for his transition team think the FCC (which created the net neutrality rules) should be stripped of all powers except the sale/management of radio spectrums.
That’s why Trump will be a terrible President. He is planning to do irreparable damage to one of the growing parts of the US economy where anyone (rich or poor) can start a breakout global business. Instead, Trump will be favoring his entrenched billionaire buddies at AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, etc.
They’ll get richer, while we’ll have fewer new jobs, less innovation, and higher home internet bills. America sure will be great for the robber barons again. You didn’t really think Trump was talking about you and your family when he said that did you?
A few people have asked what can be done about this?
Only 2 groups can change/control Net Neutrality at the federal level; the president (by appointing a FCC chairman), and congress (which can make the current FCC rules the law).
If you’re a US citizen, call your elected representatives in Washington DC and tell them to protect American Entrepreneurship and the Economy by protecting Net Neutrality. Explain the situation to your friends and family, and please ask them to do the same.
Call the White House:
Call Your Senator:
Call Your Representative in the House:
Tell your elected representatives that “Title II Net Neutrality” is important to you and you want the current FCC rules to remain in place or be passed into law.
(Title II is the name of the FCC rule that allows them to decide what “telecom infrastructure” is and apply “common carriage” rules to the companies that own it).
It only takes a minute, but a call will have far more impact than a letter, fax, or email. Your elected officials (aka their staff) track what they get calls about (and their quantities) to gauge the important views and demands of the most active voters in their district/state.
Call now, and then call again at the end of January after the new congress, senate, and president have taken office.
That’s really the shortest route to fix this. If the Republican Party reverses their opposition to Net Neutrality and leaves the current rules in place the internet can continue to be the vibrant and useful place we all enjoy.
Trump hasn’t been extremely vocal on this subject (because most people don’t get how important it is). So it won’t cost Trump or the Republican Party a lot of political points to just drop this issue. Especially because it’s currently considered a “low energy” or “wonkish” policy issue.
Answer by Rajan Bhavnani