The freedom of the internet was recently thrown into uncertainty at the end of last year. There were measures put into place that secured the freedom to browse the internet freely and without any restrictions. You could sign up for service through a number of providers, and once you had access to the web that was it — no road blocks or restricted sites.
That can all very well change. Without the security of Net Neutrality, companies such as Comcast, Verizon, Spectrum, can now alter the way you browse the internet. Nothing has yet changed, other than the fact that a change can happen very soon. The repeal of Net Neutrality had good numbers to oppose it, yet somehow it still passed. While many are looking for other ways to get neutrality back, other cities are thinking differently. Some cities are choosing to build their own network, rather than deal with the other big companies as their only options. As the future shows many big businesses trying to monetize, rather than make things easier with technology, people are making their voices heard. It’s highly likely that this year, in 2018, we will see where the future of the internet is going to go.
Imagine going on your phone: your bill is paid, everything up to date. You decide you want to check your Instagram. You touch the app, only to get a message stating “Instagram not included in your social media package, please upgrade to continue.” That is a very realistic possibility without Net Neutrality in place.. There are those, of course, that argue that this is an example of the absolute worst case scenario- that just because this can happen doesn’t mean it will happen.
Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and former Verizon lawyer, plans to scrap Obama-era Net Neutrality protections and is ignoring widespread outcry against it. As I write this Pai has already successfully gone through with the repeal. While it certainly doesn’t seem fair, since you’re already paying for internet service, without Net Neutrality, it would be legal. Companies can do as they please in order to monetize everything and make even more money off consumers. However, the Obama Administrations Net Neutrality laws are not the only regulations affecting this industry. Many who are against ending the Net Neutrality regulations cite concern for lack of service providers to choose from, and state that the new laws will allow the one or two providers in their area to charge outlandish fees for their services. However, as Ryan Bourne points out in his article for Cato Magazine, they cannot. The Government has strict laws again Monopolies, which Internet Service Providers taking advantage of the lack of options would be by definition.
While video games are a whole different topic, the micro transactions are a stepping stone to what internet service providers may start to implement in their own services. Micro transactions in video games have been put into place the past few years allowing game companies to implement additional costs in their Triple A games, which already cost $60. Instead of a flat fee to buy a game, in-game transactions could easily total an additional $50 on top of the initial cost. This is a serious issue, unless other alternatives could be found. A few major cities in the United States are working to avoiding the big companies altogether to avoid the potential for this type of hidden-fee style business model.
So how can there be alternatives to getting internet from a provider? How else can you get internet without using services like Spectrum, AT&T or Verizon? To use a crude example, imagine you need to ship out a package. Your options there can include FedEx, UPS or the United States Postal Service. If you mail or send packages fairly often, you probably already know which of these three services are the cheapest options. FedEx and UPS are big shipping companies but are out to make a profit, and are privately owned companies. The United States Postal Service is a government owned and mostly not for profit entity. Because USPS is not out to make huge profit margins, most of the services provided are at cost. So, while all three of these mailing services will deliver your package with the same results, USPS will likely save you the most money.
The same can be done in the digital realm. A city can literally build its own not-for-profit internet service provider, and while one of the benefits can be very cheap and affordable, it can provide a neutral internet experience. In an online article from Pacific Standard Magazine, they write of a town in Massachusetts that did such a thing back in 2016. In a small Greenfield town, about 40 percent of residents had no internet access; the mayor worked on a plan. Among the many questions during preliminary planning came the issue of costs. “Pricing is low because it is a cost-based service, and GCET is a not-for-profit it can be expensive,” said Dan Kelly, the project leader.
It can be even harder to convince people that it’s necessary. Not many people are informed or care to be informed about the Net Neutrality issue. Until they receive that pop-up ad asking them to upgrade their service, they might not be aware of the issue. For the cities that are informed, they are already making changes, and their set up can help inspire nearby cities to do the same. This measure could benefit anyone from major cities in California to substance abuse centers in Arkansas. One day, internet service could be among your city’s common utilities, right next to water, trash, and electricity.
Net Neutrality has been repealed, but no significant changes have been seen yet. It’s only a matter of time as companies are likely putting together their plans so they can implement them soon. There are many online petitions currently active that are attempting to overturn the decision. Despite the audible outcry, it may be necessary to take the latter options available, and cities may need to implement their own internet in order to avoid service disruptions or additional fees which could be implemented by current service providers.