Unless your neighbors mostly consist of those rolly-poly bugs and you generally only see the light of day if a giant comes by and lifts your home up off the ground, odds are good you’ve at least heard the words “net neutrality” at some point recently. More importantly, though, you might not know what it’s about or why you should give it anymore thought than you would the hair clippings on the floor of the local UberCuts Style Emporium.
Thing is, isn’t just another talking head issue where your “government at work” is doing anything but. Rather, it’s an issue that not only matters, but you have the ability to affect the outcome. And should mean something to you, unless you’d want to end up dropping a fat sack of cash and probably head of cattle or two just for the right to watch season three of Orange Is The New Black.
Before I go any further, if you don’t know what in rambling on about, watch this video of John Oliver from his weekly HBO news show, This Week Tonight.
Okay, you with me so far? In my opinion, when it comes to net neutrality, the real problem is that currently, the FCC categorizes internet service providers as an information service. Which, on it’s face, makes sense, right? After all, what do you get from the internet if not information, whether in the form of emails, family photos of last week’s picnic at Grandma’s where you got drunk and hurled all over the volleyball net, or YouTube videos where a guy tries to eat a live snake on a dare.
The problem, though, is that your internet service provider (ISP) isn’t an information service. Sure, ISPs used to be, back in the day when the only way online was with something a service like AOL or CompuServe, where what you got was part and parcel of who gave it to you. If you got an email, some freakish voice intoned “You’ve got mail”, if you wanted to learn about the reproductive habits of aquatic sea life, you typed “go seahorse sex” into some AOL keyword search box, and if you want to post statuses to make your former high school girlfriend think your life was awesome, well, you couldn’t. To do that, you had to run into her to at the mall, pretend not to see her, and then buy the extra large double chocolate caramel cookie at the Cookie Factory to make it seem like you were rolling in the fat cash instead of living in your parents’ basement.
Nowadays, though, things are much different. And not just because hopefully you’re not living in your parents basement anymore. These days it doesn’t matter if your internet service provider is Comcast, Time-Warner, or Big Bob’s Bargain Bytes. Whoever it is, they aren’t giving you information services. Your email comes through Gmail, you have Facebook to let you know when that one uncle is being embarrassingly racist and homophobic again, and your obsession with kitten pictures is fulfilled by, well, all the things.
The point is that your ISP isn’t providing you content, it’s just carrying data from other sources to you, much the same way your cell phone service carries phone calls to you. Yet, because T-Mobile is classified as a carrier service, it can’t just decide to charge you more for calls from your mother than ones from your friends hanging at the bar.
I’ll let you decide whether that’s a good thing or not.
The point of all this is the FCC has internet service providers classified all wrong. They ought to be treated like your cell phone company and not like a content service, and they shouldn’t be able to arbitrarily decide to charge you more for twitter access than for netflix videos. But if the current slate of proposed rules is adopted, that’s exactly what they’ll be able to do.
So what can you do? Well, it’s simple, but you have to act fast. Go the the fcc.gov comments form and tell them these proposed rules need to be dropped like a jar of fuzzy salsa, and internet services providers should be reclassified as common carriers. Hurry, because the FCC is accepting comments on this issue only until Friday.