Net Neutrality

Imagine the internet as a highway. The actual “highway” part of the highway system is maintain by what are called Tier 1 providers. These are the companies that maintain the giant cables that cross oceans and provide the backbone of the internet. You as a consumer probably don’t deal with these providers very much. Instead, you deal with companies like Comcast or Time-Warner. In this analogy of an information superhighway, Comcast owns the on and off-ramps to your house. They connect the Tier 1 to your computer. Companies like Netflix, Ebay, or Amazon also have onramps and offramps, but depending on the volume they work with, these companies will either work directly with the Tier 1 providers or with other business facing internet providers to maintain their connections to the information superhighway.

When you click on a movie in Netflix, they send a “truck” from their onramp, down the highway, and it exits at your offramp and you watch a movie.

What Comcast is doing is saying “Hey, there’s a lot of these Netflix trucks coming down our offramps, let’s charge a toll to these trucks to make more money; or better yet, let’s just deny Netflix trucks from using our offramp so that our customers have to use our streaming services instead!”

Now sure, this wouldn’t be a problem if you had 3 or 4 different offramps to your house. You could easily say to Comcast, “Screw you guys, I’m going to use this other offramp where they aren’t blocking my Netflix truck from getting to me.” But the problem is that 2 out every every 3 Americans live in a place where there is only one choice of offramp. (In the unlikely event that someone from the FCC is reading this, that is what is called a monopoly. I know, it’s a word that you’ve been trained by your telecom lobbyists never to use.)

What the new FCC plan wants to do is allow Comcast to have two offramps, a tollway for fast traffic and another one for regular traffic. Essentially letting established companies with the financial backing to get a leg up over any competition that might not have the money to pay for a fast lane. It changes the dynamic from companies trying to provide better and more useful products to consumers into a dynamic of bribing the cable companies enough to ensure your content gets there faster.

Net Neutrality

Netflix and Comcast strike deal to allow faster speeds

In your city there is one electricity company. They are allowed to operate without competition because the people have decided that they would rather have one set of power lines in their neighborhoods than four or five. Electricity companies are therefore designated as “common carriers”. This means that they must provide service for a standard rate that cannot vary based on what it will be used for. So the electricity you use to power your refrigerator is billed at the same rate as what you use to turn on your TV.
Now suppose that your electricity company decides to start manufacturing microwaves. And then let’s say that they successfully convince your representatives that because they are providing this end use of the power, they are no longer common carriers and are not subject to regulation.
Now they are allowed to start charging you different rates depending on what you are using your power for. Don’t have one of their brand microwaves? Sorry, it costs twice as much to power it. Want to
power your TV? You’ll need to purchase the entertainment package. Unfortunately, since electricity requires infrastructure, they are the only provider in the town. Even though your tax dollars helped fund the development of their infrastructure, they now have no incentive to maintain it because you have no where else to go so you’ll just have to get used to it.
Or you could contact your representatives and tell them that you don’t want the electricity company to decide how you use your power. That they should again be treated as common carriers and should be required to charge a static rate regardless of what their power is used for.

Now just reread that replacing electricity with internet and appliances with streaming video or email and you will understand the current state of internet access in the United States.