|Details:||Net Neutrality Loss, Worries of Consumer Costs Rising:|
From time to time, we report trends, news, and interesting things that effect consumers.
We are worried about the bleak news about Net Neutrality rules being eliminated, a huge win for big businesses and loss for small businesses and deal-seekers.
What is Net Neutrality?
Without Net Neutrality:
- Your connection provider to the Internet (cable modem, mobile/LTE wireless, fiber, whatever) are not allowed to pick favorites, block content, or make certain services unusable.
- Protections were put in place after connection providers (mobile companies, cable companies, etc) blocked content or made competing services (such as Netflix) unusable or slow.
The US will join the small list of anti-Net Neutrality countries like Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and Slovenia.
Some of these countries block critics and content, including:
- Fewer choices of services.
- Cost of services could rise.
If Comcast makes a deal with Hulu, competing services like Netflix and YouTube could be slowed or blocked from Comcast customers.
- Some websites could be blocked.
For example, Verizon, currently in a partnership with Yahoo and The Huffington Post, could block their mobile customer's access to Google and Fox News because of competing interests.
So, corporate interests would have the ability to govern your access to news.
- Internet service providers would be able to charge websites and apps to be usable by their customers, who would pass those charges onto consumers.
- The FTC would take control over Internet oversight, but will not have the resources to do much about it.
The FTC is a "reactive" agency where bad behaviors are brought to its attention after they are committed, versus the FCC which creates Internet law meant to protect customers from bad behavior before it happens.
What happens if Internet providers slow (not block) certain sites?
- For political reasons, China blocks many websites & apps entirely. Google, Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Facebook, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Twitter, Instagram, github, DropBox, Slack, Sony, Flickr, Reuters, and NASA are all completely blocked in China.
This is referred to as the Great Firewall of China.
How this can effect finding and getting "deals":
- Visitors who wait more than 3 seconds for a mobile site to load will abandon their search 53% of the time.
So, slowing a site is an effective way to cripple their traffic.
A site can die when their users go away.
- Internet service providers like Verizon have slowed sites like Netflix before, partly a way to sell users more expensive services that should have actually worked on the low-cost Internet plans.
This practice could become the norm.
So, fewer choices and higher prices.
- This will be a major shift in how we access information online.
Some information (such as reviews) may be available to some users, and not to others.
- Small shopping sites like Blue Nile, BuyDig, Newegg, and Overstock may have fewer deals due to the rising cost of doing business on the Internet.
- TV plan prices will go up.
Consumers who replaced high-cost Cable television service with low-cost streaming video services may soon find poor video quality.
YouTube TV, Playstation Vue, DirecTV Now, Hulu TV, and Sling TV may struggle to offer high quality TV service if your Internet provider wants to compete for your TV watching business, forcing you to pay higher for quality HD video.
- The telecom companies would create separate "fast lanes" meant for companies that pay more.
Free voice and video communication apps could be the first to die, since they compete with the telecom companies' interests and would not be able to afford their new "fast lane" fees.
Companies who cannot afford the fast-lane "tolls" may die.
- Many small businesses who market through social media, websites, and cheap online advertising could lose their low-cost advertising options.
- Opportunities for new innovations in the US may be shrink, since their reach abilities would be lessened.
Less innovation can mean fewer options and higher prices.
For example, a cheap personal trainer app that provides live video workouts may struggle to survive if cable and mobile services force the business to pay for "fast lane" access.
- Reference sites & services that are currently free, like Wikipedia and Google Maps, could be forced to charge customers for access on certain Internet networks.
- Websites, like this one, may work for some people, and stop working for others.
If the current news holds its course, Net Neutrality will be eliminated by the end of the year.
The rollout plan has not yet been announced, but the Internet could change by Christmas.
We Americans use the Internet in every aspect of our lives.
We share videos & photos, engage with people through social media and calls, and love the freedom of shopping at whichever site gives us the best deals and which products have the best reviews.
The Internet companies have, and will likely again, introduce politics into where we shop and how we communicate & get information, and that will likely lead to higher prices on everything.
On a positive note, people are making a fuss.
The New York Times says 76% of Americans support Net Neutrality.
99.7% of all businesses are small businesses, most of which are one-person operations that found a way to use digital tools to operate and grow their businesses.
Millions of people have appealed the FCC to keep Net Neutrality.
Even the FCC's top five officials are against these sweeping changes to the Internet.
With so many people involved, and so much of the US economy heavily invested on an open/free Internet, both consumers & companies are pushing on their elected officials to keep Net Neutrality in place.
So, there is still hope.
A previous version of this post incorrectly listed Portugal's wireless as a dystopian example of no Net Neutrality.
We could not verify the source of that information, and one source said it was implemented to benefit consumers who kept hitting their bandwidth caps.
We apologize for the bad example.