The internet is a wonderful thing for all of us. It allows those without a voice to finally be heard. It gives people that have something to say a platform to stand on and make their community stronger. But, what happens when the very thing that we hold dear is threatened?
In just a couple of days, Congress will vote on new legislation that will ultimately undo Net Neutrality laws and bring about the end of freedom of expression. This sounds doom and gloom, I know, but it is pretty serious and it is something that we should all be paying attention to.
So…What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality ensures that ISPs (Internet Service Providers) cannot block, censor, or throttle websites. The internet was created in order for everyone to share their information at a rate that is the same. As of right now, all websites operate under the same speeds that are afforded to them. A website’s speed is based on the server that is being used and how the site is coded. If you are pretty savvy, you maybe able to work things a little differently when building your website in order to make the page boot faster, however, all websites have the same rights and abilities to be what the programmer chooses. With Net Neutrality laws, ISPs must provide the same speeds for everyone.
So…What would happen without Net Neutrality laws?
If we did not have a set of rules stating that all websites are equal, then ISPs could charge individual websites extra money in order to have the websites load faster or operate better. A website that is not willing to shell out more money could eventually have its internet access restricted or have the speeds throttled, basically making the website impossible to access. This could cause all of our websites to cost us more money to operate per year.
Services like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon could see extra costs because of this move. ISPs like Comcast could charge these companies more money in order to have their content pushed fast enough for our homes to receive the programs without lag or delay. More money for the services means more money for the consumer. You could expect your streaming bills to go way up if they have to start paying extra.
Since we are on the topic of stream services, Comcast is not a fan of these services. It is well known that Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon are in direct competition with cable and satellite providers, and as such, have a stake in how this all plays out. If the laws are over turned, Comcast could make it to where watching shows on these platforms would be horrific and full of streaming errors. They could make the experience so bad that watching the shows on cable would just make more sense.
So…What about Gaming?
This is where things kinda get interesting.
When I first heard about Net Neutrality, I never really thought about gaming as a whole. Often times I would play a game on my Xbox or Playstaion and not really think that it is connected to the internet. I don’t really play as many multiplayer games as I do single player, but I forget how the games end up on my system in the first place.
Lets say that you want to buy a game from the Xbox Store or from PSN. Most gamers are making the switch to digital titles rather then physical, so this is a pretty easy situation to see most gamers involved in. Downloading Forza 7, for example, is a 100GB download. Now lets say that your data cap with Comcast is 1 terra bite. By downloading one game, you have just used up 10% of your data for the month in the span of an hour.
Now, play that game online for a couple of weeks. Maybe you have to download some updates or patches for the game and your system. Maybe you want to buy some new cars and or cards. After awhile, you will realize that you no longer have any data for the month and Comcast can start throttling your speed or even shut you down.
This could be a reality for you anyway based on the plan that you currently have, but if Comcast sees that this happens more and more frequently within the gaming community, then they could charge Microsoft and Sony a premium for every game that we download from their stores. This could in effect raise the prices of video games as a whole in order for them to keep up with current demands.
Twitch and YouTube gamers could feel the effects in a very real way. with the caps on internet usage in place, and the fact that ISPs could charge streamers more money in order to push their content, new up and coming gamers could be snuffed out by taxes and fees.
Gamers that play MMOs and multiplayer games could be hit the hardest. When it comes to competitive gaming, connection speed is key to everything. Multiplayer speeds comes down to latency. Latency is the amount of time that it takes for your service provider to send the signal from where you are to the server. If you are currently paying for high speed internet, you may have a very low latency. This in turn allows you to play a game with tons of people and not have lagging issues. Normally this doesn’t have a huge impact on the competitive scene because the rates are pretty even based on the download packages that you are paying for. With Net Neutrality laws undone, Comcast could essentially offer “Multiplayer packages” that allow you to pay more money to have faster speeds then anyone else. Imagine that you are part of a family that is getting by, but cannot afford to pay for the best internet packages. Essentially, you could be playing at a disadvantage in a system that is truly “pay to win”.
The freedom of expression that the internet provides will no longer be free.
So…What can be done!?
Congress will vote on this topic December 14, 2017.
It is up to us to have our voices heard.
Everyone should contact their congressman or woman in their districts and tell them that we do not want them to get rid of Net Neutrality.
You can go to Battleforthenet.com to send a message to the FCC and they will also have a link so that you can call your congressman in your area. Also, as a sign of opposition to this endeavor, Battle For The Net is also calling for a “Break The Internet” day, tomorrow, December 12, 2017, in which they will be messaging the FCC and members of congress in order to make our voices heard.
I am aware that this post was pretty preachy, but the fate of the internet is at stake. Many of us write as a form of escape, perhaps you write in order to be heard, or maybe it’s a way to become introspective. Whatever your reason, you need to have the ability to make your content. If they are able to undo Net Neutrality laws, it could make it harder for someone that doesn’t have the money to have their voice heard. The internet should not be used or developed by those that have the means. It should be a collaboration from everyone, in all walks of life, with different experiences, and different stories. WE CAN HAVE OUR VOICES HEARD.