The Death of Net Neutrality.

April 7, 2010

Today marks a sad sad day for the internet and those that love the freedom of the internet. Comcast, the United States largest cable and internet service provider, won a critical case in the US Court of Appeals against the FCC that sets a precedence that essentially kills Net Neutrality.

What is “Net Neutrality”? Well, it’s the idea that anyone who pays for internet access, are paying for the same internet. Connection quality will vary, but no matter what, everyone is accessing the same internet content. So, if this strikes the death-nail for Net Neutrality, what does that really mean?

Imagine a tiered internet package plan. You have a “basic”, “advanced” and “premium” internet services. Your “basic internet plan” could be about what you pay now for Comcast internet serivces ($19.99/month to start), not so bad, right? Well, your “basic” plans are structured so you’re not using a ton of bandwidth, that means bandwidth hogs like YouTube, Netflix, and Pandora or Last.fm become inaccessible. If you want to visit high bandwidth sites, then you would have to buy the “advanced” plan for, say, $42.95/month. So, now you can watch YouTube and Netflix and listen to streaming music again. Oh happy day! But, what about playing games over the internet? I mean, some games pull down a heck of a lot of traffic, plus what if you need to download it from Steam? That’s gigs worth of bandwidth! Well, Comcast has a plan for you too! At the low low price of $52.95/month!

But what about Skype you ask? Well, I have some bad news. Cable companies provide phone services and for years now Skype and other VOIP services have been cutting into their profit, so they’ve been looking for any reason at all to block or ban the service from their ISP, and now they can. You can also say goodbye to Torrenting.

Now, obviously nothing like this currently exists, but a precedence such as this open the road for Comcast to control how data is handled on their network in such a way that is almost guaranteed to hurt consumers. Our community has been affected by this already with certain regional Comcast providers blocking ports and content that affects the PlayOnline viewer’s ability to establish and maintain a connection to the servers and it seems as if those users that have these problems aren’t likely to see a solution anytime soon.

So I know what you’re thinking, what can we do Aniero? Well, first you can educate yourself and sign the petition to the FCC to protect Net Neutrality at SaveTheInternet.com. Keep up on what Comcast is doing at Comcast Watch. I also recommend expressing yourself on G4 TV. G4, the “popular” video game/internet culture TV channel, is owned by Comcast. Write their shows, write their editors, post on their forums, and tell them “this is not OK!”

Fortunately, the fight isn’t over yet. There are web giants like Google and News Corp that provide services that consume high amounts of bandwidth, and they won’t go quietly into that dark night. Please, educate yourself on this very important struggle, it affects you in more ways then you know.

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