Net neutrality is one of the hot-button issues of the new year, but it is important to those who enjoy the freedom of the Internet. While handing over Internet providers the reigns to our online access can help block viruses and spam, it also gives them the power to control what we see and at what speed it loads. There is currently a petition to restore net neutrality by classifying Internet providers as “common carriers,” but if the FCC ruling stands, there may be some dire consequences for consumers due to the vague nature of what carrier are allowed to do.
1) Getting to your favorite sites could be difficult.
Internet carriers will have access to the speed with which a page loads on your screen, so that means they could speed up those they favor and slow down everyone else. This could mean that the expensive super-fast WiFi you’re paying for might load pages slower than your old dial up connection.
2) You may lose access to content completely.
Many people are aware that in China, some sites and services are blocked by the government in order to keep information and goods, among other things, from their citizens. While there’s no threat of the American government doing this, Internet providers might block content they view as unfavorable or unsavory, meaning any number of sites could be blocked without warning.
3) Denying you access to the competition.
Savvy online shoppers know you have dig around for the best prices, but in a world without net neutrality, this may not be possible. There’s a chance that Internet providers might boost more popular and wealthy sites like Amazon that pay them extra or agree to host ads for the provider’s affiliated companies. This means other sites like Overstock might take longer to load or even be blocked entirely. This wouldn’t just apply to online marketplaces, but for sites of all types across the web.
4) Companies could set up paywalls for consumers.
Do you often browse YouTube? Reddit? Tumblr? Your Internet carrier may decide to make you pay for that extra video or additional 15 minutes of browsing with a paywall, like some publications already do. You may even have to purchase specific, more expensive packages to have access to these particular websites, for limited or unlimited periods of time.
5) Small business and start-up websites may not be able to compete.
Without net neutrality, Internet providers may charge companies more money to make their content more easily accessible. While the bigger companies may have no problem meeting carrier demands, smaller businesses may not be able to keeping their site up and running. Start-ups might not get the views they need to get popular if they can’t afford the fees necessary to have costumers easily browse their page. Could Facebook or Twitter have flourished in such conditions when they first appeared?
6) Providers can charge more for service without additional benefits.
If Internet carriers can make money forcing companies to pay to keep their sites loading fast, they don’t have to focus on improving the quality. In fact, there’s nothing to stop them from charging more for the same, or worse, service they previously provided. This doesn’t only effect networks in people’s homes: schools, hospitals, and other facilities used by the public may have to stretch already diminished budgets to pay for Internet access.
7) Your content may be cut off from the rest of the world.
This is especially important if any facet of your professional life relies on the web. Not only can Internet provides block you from reading specific content, they can block others from gaining access to your content. For those individuals whose work is on the Internet, like YouTubers who earn money from ad revenue or writers who use the web to showcase their work to future employers, loss of only visibility would be a crippling blow, both professionally and economically.