If you ever wanted a good illustration of why we should fight to protect net neutrality, the image below – posted to Imgur this week – posits a potential future scenario that will no doubt give you the chills.
For those of you who don’t know the workings of it: net neutrality is the notion that internet service providers must treat all traffic equally. A truly open Internet means that companies can't pay your ISP to give preferential treatment to one website over another. Similarly, it means that you shouldn't have to pay your ISP to give you access to something the way your cable or satellite provider packages channels – as shown in this mock-up.
Earlier this month the FCC voted to begin dismantling the agency's net neutrality rules – the purpose of which have been to keep ISPs in check and ensure the internet remains "open" – were originally passed only two years ago. The move flies in the face of the overwhelming response from Internet users who left comments on the FCC website, in part sparked into action by the likes of Last Week Tonight host John Oliver. The rules, which are designed to prevent communications behemoths like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast from abusing their stranglehold on broadband internet access aren't quite dead yet though: this month's vote only begins the process of dismantling them ahead of a final vote later this year.
The FCC's new proposal "Restoring Internet Freedom" challenges both the legal approach that enforced those rules, and also whether the rules were warranted in the first place. The dissenting Democratic commissioner, Mignon Clyburn responded, saying "If you unequivocally trust that your broadband provider will always put the public interest over self-interest or the interest of their stockholders, then the 'Destroying Internet Freedom' [proposal] is for you."
For 90 days from the last vote on May 18, the FCC will collect comments from stakeholders and the general public before drafting anything specific and voting on whether to set it into law. Back in 2015 when the net neutrality rules were first being drafted, the agency received more than 4 million comments, most of which were in support of strict regulations.