You expect your home Internet connection to “just work” like water and electricity. But what if the electric company provided inadequate power to your Whirlpool refrigerator, because Whirlpool hadn’t paid a fee? And what if the water company completely cut off the flow from your Kohler faucet because it owned a stake in another faucet company?
Unlike public utilities, your Internet service provider (ISP) can abuse its power to influence which Internet businesses win and lose by slowing down or even blocking sites and services. However, with most homes having a choice of just one or two providers, consumers have little recourse. Under FCC’s “Open Internet Order, that a court struck down in January, wired broadband providers were forbidden from discriminating against any type of Internet traffic that flows through their pipes — a principle widely known as net neutrality. And there never were any rules to protect against wireless companies discriminating.
The FCC has proposed a new set of rules that would prevent ISPs from outright blocking anyone but would still allow them to deliver different services at different speeds. However, it’s just a proposal, and right now, there is no sheriff in town.
This is one of the best explainers I’ve seen about how the demise of net neutrality could affect everyone in the United States.