Orwell’s Internet: A future where public access to YouTube can be blocked by ISPs

Animal FarmAmerican net neutrality rules which stated that all internet service providers (ISPs) were to give consumers equal access to all available and lawful content have been overturned.

This means that ISPs could potentially blackmail high traffic content providers like YouTube and Netflix into paying for faster and reliable access to their web content. And any disagreement over fees could allow ISPs to limit or block public access to those websites altogether.

Some internet traffic is more equal than others

CNET explains it best:

For instance, the ruling opens the door for broadband and backbone Internet providers to develop new lines of business, such as charging Internet content companies, like Netflix, Amazon, or Google, access fees to their networks. Companies like Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and others could offer priority access over their networks to ensure streaming services from a Netflix or Amazon don’t buffer when they hit network congestion, providing a better experience for end users.

A faster service is good for the customer, but there are negative side effects:

But supporters of Net neutrality caution this is a very slippery slope. And they argue that these new business models will likely increase costs for companies operating on the Internet, and that eventually those costs will be passed onto consumers. What’s more, erecting priority status for services online will result in bigger players being able to afford to pay the fees, while smaller upstarts will be blocked from competing because they won’t be able to afford the fees that a Verizon or Time Warner Cable might impose.

Stifling innovation like this will affect the global economy. We’re still in a recession. Where is the average person going to find the extra money to afford access to online entertainment and educational services? Previously freely available content could be quickly locked away behind paywalls with a demand for subscription fees.

Fat Tony, mobster from The SimpsonsAnd if those content companies can’t scrape together enough paying subscribers to pay-off the mob ISPs with their metaphorical hand holding the gun poised to pull the plug to public access, arguments over the protection money ISPs’ fees could result in them blocking customer access to the content providers’ sites:

Imagine if cable companies charged Internet companies to transmit their services to consumers. And imagine if there was a similar breakdown in negotiations between Time Warner Cable and Amazon or Google over these fees. Without any regulation prohibiting Time Warner from blocking access to a service or a Web site, Time Warner could block consumers’ access to Amazon or Google until the fee dispute was settled.

Fat Tony's protection racket

Sounds like a nice protection racket to me. I thought that was illegal. Hmm.

This decision needs to be reversed. If not, then the internet freedom we’ve enjoyed (and taken for granted) in the West may be dead and gone. At the very least, ISPs that decide to charge these premium rates should be boycotted and left to wither and die under the law of supply and demand, if they don’t come to their senses.

*Also posted on BookLikes

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