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What the Net Neutrality Repeal Really Means for Texans

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You may have heard the term "net neutrality" a lot in the news lately, thanks to the FCC’s historic vote to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules. But despite the topic taking center stage, many Americans don’t really understand what net neutrality means.

To put it simply, net neutrality is the principle that your internet service provider (or ISP) cannot change the speed or cost of or block content on any web page. As of right now, net neutrality is how the internet works, and how the internet has always worked. You pay your ISP a flat fee each month, and for that fee you get access to the entire internet, with no censorship and no restrictions. But with the repeal of net neutrality, that very likely will change.


How Could the Repeal Restrict Access?

While it is not yet known exactly how the repeal of net neutrality will look for each individual ISP, there are many plausible "worst-case" scenarios. For example, say your provider is a mega-corporation that owns, among many other things, its own news media network. Your ISP could theoretically charge you extra to access news outlets not in its family of news networks. It could also charge you extra to access certain search engines, and could even totally block your access to certain websites if the company deems them inappropriate or if they go against your ISP’s political beliefs. This is especially dangerous for marginalized communities, as the internet has become a valuable means for communication and activism.


How Will This Affect My Internet Bill?

While, again, we still don’t know what pricing will look like for a post-net neutrality internet, the price to access the web could very easily skyrocket. Why? Because, in addition to your monthly ISP fees, you could be required to pay additional fees to access certain sites each month. If you’re already paying to stream content, this could be even more troublesome, because your ISP could decide to charge extra to allow you to stream content - meaning you’re paying twice for the same content!


How Will This Affect My Internet Speed?

With the repeal of net neutrality, ISPs will now have the right to slow the speed of competitors’ sites if they choose. Say for example your ISP has its own cable services that offer streamed, on-demand movies and television shows. Now, say you want to stream content from a competitor’s service, like Netflix or Amazon Prime. Your ISP could slow your connection to those sites to discourage you from using them, driving your business to their own streaming services, limiting your access to original programming, and taking away your ability to make your own choices.


How Will This Affect My Business?

It’s safe to say that nearly every business in America relies on access to the internet in some way. From ordering supplies to shipping customer purchases, the internet can be a valuable asset to businesses of all sizes - but especially to small businesses and startups. With the repeal of net neutrality, your ISP could slow or even block access to your site, driving your customers to your competitors and stifling your company’s ability to grow and prosper. It can even make it difficult to recruit new talent or engage socially with your customers, something that has become crucial to business success in the age of social media.


What Does a Non-neutral Internet Look Like Elsewhere?

You may have already seen a few memes showing what the absence of net neutrality looks like in places like New Zealand or Spain, for example, but how accurate are they? Well, they’re pretty spot on. In Spain, in order to use sites like Skype, users are required to pay their ISP an additional 4.99 euros (or approximately $5.88 USD) a month. If users want to access YouTube or Netflix, they’ll need to pay an additional 4.99 euros - and this is on top of what they’re already paying for their basic internet and what they’re already paying for their Netflix membership!

In New Zealand, internet users are charged anywhere from $9 to $20 extra a month (depending on ISP and package) to access sites like Facebook. And if you think that fee gets you unlimited Facebook, think again - depending on your package, your ISP could restrict the amount of data you have to use on certain sites, requiring you to pay more to spend more time there. This may not be so expensive for individuals, but if your entire family visits the same social media sites, you could be paying a lot more. With the estimated cost of raising just one child hovering around $13,000 a year, adding more fees is the last thing most families need!


What Can We Do Now?

While this is just the first battle in the FCC’s crusade to end net neutrality, the war is far from over. There is still plenty you can do to help stop this oppressive policy from going forward:


    Call or write your Congress person. You can find out who that is by clicking HERE
    Sign a petition asking Congress and the FCC to restore net neutrality. There are a few good ones HERE and HERE
    Support candidates like Linsey Fagan, who support net neutrality.

 

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Tuesday, 20 February 2018

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