After much debate from both sides, the time has finally come. To sound as fatalistic as humanly possible, the bell is about to toll! In only a handful of hours, the United States Federal Communications Commission will meet. On their daily schedule is the much-dreaded vote to repeal Net Neutrality.
Stop Right There! I’m Here For Comics and Games; Not Local Politics!
Although a sovereign government is involved, this decision is far from being a purely political one. On the contrary, its repercussions could drastically change the way we use the internet.
Before we delve into the details, though, it’s important to understand what Net Neutrality really means. A thorough explanation of the current situation would take hours, so we’ll have to settle for a short and generic one. In layman’s terms: regardless of their content, all data packets are created equal.
Ever since its birth, the World Wide Web evolved on the back of this theory. Instead of censorship, it was merit that decided whether a site would thrive. Videos, social media, news outlets – even porn – became popular because that’s what people wanted to see, read, and use!
Under the guise of safety, the current members of the FCC aim to reverse the policy put in place by the previous administration. In turn, that would give ISPs around the United States more independence.
The exact effects of all this change according to the person who’s telling you about them. Among other things, If Net Neutrality is repealed, companies would be able to throttle or limit your available bandwidth. Specific resource-hungry sites might also end up behind a paywall.
Farewell Net Neutrality; Goodbye Exposition!
Imagine being forced to shell out more cash if you wanted to watch a YouTube video. Imagine only having a limited amount of data to spend on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, and DeviantArt. Now ask yourself the following questions: would you still click every link you see? Would you still aimlessly wander the web?
Sadly, for a good chunk of the general population, the answer is going to be a big fat nope! College students, single parents, and anybody else with a limited disposable income simply won’t be able to afford the extra toll. If the motion is passed, the average time these people spend on the internet is also going to decrease.
While the change in pace might be healthy for someone, that definitely won’t be the case for indie creators. With throttling and the disappearance of unlimited data plans, you can forget people stumbling upon your project. Instead, every bit of exposition will be much harder to gain, as different studios fight for the attention of a smaller crowd.
The gamers and the comics enthusiasts among us won’t fare much better. If deals between ISPs and the entertainment industry are allowed, some content could be given priority over other. Even the ability to download a new release, check your usual blogs or read the latest issue of your favorite graphic novel might soon come at a price!
Cool But… I Don’t Live In The United States!
It’s not uncommon to hear a similar sentence when non-US internet dwellers discuss Net Neutrality. Unbeknownst to them, the effects of the upcoming vote will hardly only apply to the 50 states. On the contrary, telecommunications in many European countries already suffered a similar fate long ago.
In some parts of Europe, for instance, internet providers are free to directly deal with major online platforms. Despite the EU’s Open Internet policy, loopholes still allow bundles that offer unlimited access to certain websites to be sold. For only a handful more bucks every month, obviously!
Natural monopoly also still taints a large part of the globe. More often than not, a bigger company owns the entire network and decides how much of it its competitors get to use. Coupled with increasingly stricter data caps and subsequent throttling, all of these practices effectively already condition the user’s browsing habits.
If anything, the current European situation shows us a glimpse of the soon-to-be standards. Influenced and strengthened by what’s about to happen in the US, little could stop industry giants around the globe from selectively cutting off those who refuse to play by their rules!
Is There A Way To Save Net Neutrality?
As painful as it is to say, this particular policy already looks to be on its last leg. Unless a last-minute Christmas miracle happens, all five members of the committee are predicted to speak against it. Still, consumer groups won’t take the results lying down and neither should you. After, it seems we’ll need to wait a bit more before we can properly answer the question that titles this piece.
The change brought by tomorrow’s vote won’t be immediate. While other parts of the U.S. government discuss the details, ISPs and websites will be given a period to adapt their portfolio of offers. Perhaps in an effort to retain their clientele, several major US companies promised that they won’t exert their influence over speeds and content.
In the meantime, it’ll be up to us – the final consumers – to decide how to go about it. For as long as possible, we should all strive to avoid caving in. Whether you’re a creator or simply enjoy the work of others, take a break and spend the holidays with your family.
The first months of next year are going to be rich in comics conventions and indie showcases. By then, we’ll have a better picture of whether we should run for the hills or keep running our businesses as usual!
Articles Marked As opinions are built upon the author’s personal beliefs and don’t always depict those of the entire team. We strongly support freedom of expression and encourage our writers to always share their point of view.