Tech Talk: Goodbye Net Neutrality?
For tech geeks everywhere, doomsday came last week. On Jan.14, a federal appeals court struck down government regulations commonly referred to as “net neutrality,” the laws that forced Internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all Web traffic the same. Whether you were reading a blog post, sending an email or streaming a movie, net neutrality meant ISPs had to load all sites at the same rate and not some content over others.
Confused? Net neutrality is like that, but at the heart of the discussion know that this means money. Think of it in terms of tiered TV subscriptions. Cable providers such as Mediacom or DIRECTV can host certain channels and not others based on the fee to carry them, beyond that, they can charge customers more for premium channels such as HBO or Showtime. With net neutrality potentially dead, ISPs can tier Internet sites and content in much the same way.
Imagine Internet service where email and news sites are the bronze package at $29.99 per month, social media the silver package at $39.99 and streaming media, such as Netflix and YouTube, the gold package at $49.99. Sounds pretty terrible, huh? Well it could get even worse. Internet providers could put a premium on uploading services as well, which is where the real Web traffic jams can occur. Want to upload a video to YouTube? I bet you’d think twice if Mediacom charged you $20 per upload.
On the business side, the gravity is greater yet. ISPs could charge them for carriage as well. Internet giants, such as Facebook and Twitter — which still struggle to find revenue, let alone turn a profit today — would never have survived the cost to reach their audience. Today’s innovators and revenue-less startups, such as Snapchat, may fold before they have a chance to cash in.
Basically, the cheap and unlimited Web we all surf without a care may be casting its last waves. So tonight, as you log onto “World of Warcraft” or stream cat videos on YouTube, soak in the moment, because they could be drying up. CV
Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb