The internet plays a huge role in the day-to-day functions of every American and UTSA student. Whether people are researching diligently, listening to music, or watching movies, chances are they are using the internet to do it. Everything is presented fairly and is given equal importance across the web. However, some major corporations would like to change this.
Companies like Verizon and Comcast are pushing hard to pass legislation that would change the internet forever. Their plan is to charge services like Netflix and YouTube extra fees for receiving so much traffic. If they “choose” to not comply, the ISPs (Internet Service Providers: companies that provide users with internet) will limit the amount of information streaming services can use throughout the day or even block the connection entirely. This may not seem like a serious issue, but the real problem lies hidden in the idea of charging extra for certain services. The internet was built with the idea that knowledge and data should be equally and easily accessible to anyone with a connection. This has been the case for a few decades now, but it may all change soon.
In early 2014, a ruling made by Washington DC’s court of appeals stated that the FCC “does not have the authority to impose net neutrality rules on ISPs.” This single ruling is going to make the process of restoring Net Neutrality an uphill battle. If ISPs are given unbridled control over the media they are providing, they could essentially promote some content unfairly. This means that they could allow traffic that only they approve of to reach their paying customers. One could even argue that this puts a damper on the amendment to free speech, ultimately leading to unregulated censorship. It is bad enough that the ISPs provide slow speeds and terribly rated customer support.
The United States is already ranked below many developed countries in residential internet speeds. For instance, a connection speed of one megabit per second (which would take about 30 seconds to download a 4-5 minute song) of internet on average costs $3.33 in the US while it only costs $0.27 in Japan. However, the only thing worse than ISPs charging inflated prices is their customer support. Always on hold and growing increasingly unhappy, most users won’t even call their service providers. They’d rather deal with it and change to another company after their contract is up. Unfortunately, none of the other companies are any better. South Park satirizes the user’s lack of choice with their skit about Comcast customer service. Sadly, the people that do complain are just dismissed or offered miniscule discounts for a short period of time, only to have their original price increase after the discount expires.
We as users need to address this problem with an extreme sense of urgency. We need to reach out to companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon and tell them that this is not what we want. Not only are ISPs charging high monthly costs for terribly slow internet, they may soon be able to decide what their users see. The internet is supposed to be about accessing whatever we want, whenever we want. Some companies would like to change this, but it is up to us to stop them.