“There’s a $3.00 upcharge to read the Huffington Post?! When did they start charging?!” You might ask, indignantly, soon. Then you’ll look more carefully, and realize that it’s your cable/Internet provider that’s charging for this. Don’t worry, though! For $19.99/mo more, you get UNLIMITED access to all of your favorite content on the Web. For $29.99 more you can watch your new TV Apps from CBS, NBC, and ABC. HBO/Showtime? They’re extra on top of their own fees.
While you were shopping for your Thanksgiving dinner, the turkeys at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) were quietly creating another pathway to profit for cable TV, satellite and Internet providers that already make prime dollar providing you access to the Worldwide Web.
Under the laughable “Restoring Internet Freedom” heading, commissioners voted to strip the Obama administration’s Federal Communications Commission “Net Neutrality” rules that prevent these owners of the on-ramps to the Web from charging tariffs against specific sites or types of content.
You already pay a hefty premium for generally poor data service from most Internet providers in North America. Cable providers get paid many times by you. You pay for the monthly service and the boxes that translate their signal to your TV. You also are hit with cable-specific advertising that is “cut in” to your regular programming and you pay a premium for certain services, such as HBO or Showtime.
So why do Comcast, Time-Warner, Cox and other gatekeepers want more? Their bread-and-butter-biz, big premiums for you to watch television, is going away.
Every flat screen sold now goes out the door bypasses that old-school setup with apps for your TV instead of channels. App-driven television is available from every flat-screen television manufacturer, and TVs can also access these apps through Apple TV 4K, Google Chromecast, Amazon’s Fire TV, Roku, and many many others.
Currently the cable providers are hamstringing the owners of this content by making you own access to a cable company’s traditional hardware and packages to use many of these apps. The future is going away from them though.
CBS now offers an “All-Access” for a monthly charge which opens up all of their shows for binge-watching stretching back to the I Love Lucy days of the dawn of television.
Effectively cable operators are in the paid wire business. The delivery of the Internet. Net neutrality keeps them from inventing new ways to gouge you for service.
These fees now can extend past your television. Want to shop on Ebay? Comcast could hit you with a $1.99/mo charge. Or buy the whole “Internet Shopping package” of approved sites for $11.99/mo.
Of course, if you run a small business in Kentucky selling hams, and you can’t afford to pay a few hundred Internet gatekeepers the fees to be part of that access group, users trying to access your pages may wait minutes, or never see them at all, because there is no bandwidth for you if you don’t pay up.
Water rights are an easy analogy. If towns on tributaries to the Mississippi began damming up creeks, and charging the cities downstream for the water, people living all along the river would be livid.
In Germany, men grew rich by building castles in the Rhine and attacking ships that failed to pay for passage through their section of the river.
Federal water rights laws remain unchallenged, and have worked for more than a century. Access to the Internet should be no different.
Many countries offer the Internet free of charge. Net Neutrality was designed to keep the Internet a viable economically vibrant source of jobs and gross domestic product in the United States. Allowing the gatekeepers to collect fees for access to any service of their choosing could seriously stifle the offerings open to you on the web.
A free Internet is good for business, and one of the few growth areas of business and employment opportunities.
If the FCC ruling is allowed to stand, a few cable providers will get rich, new Internet ventures will move to other parts of the world, content will shift to places and languages that leave Americans out, and millions of Americans will lose access to smaller sites that cannot afford to pay the gatekeepers’ blackmail.
Which is why Americans need to voice, loudly, their displeasure with the FCC decision with their elected officials NOW, before the Trump’s television giveaway gets underway.
You can reach the FCC by email, or join one of the many protests to your elected officials by phone, text message to Fax, or petitions on Change.org, the White House, the Free Press, and Sign For Good. Like all regulation changes, we’re in the comment period.
So comment for your freedom. Loudly!