We've been talking a lot about Net Neutrality, which is the idea that bits should flow along the "information superhighway" without being artificially impeded by an internet service provider. If the internet is an information superhighway, then the internet service provider is the exit ramp. It's how that stuff going back and forth across the world gets to your home. But wouldn't it be annoying if there were toll roads across town, and you'd need to pay a toll to get the internet to your house? If in order to get access to certain websites, you'd need to pay an additional toll?
Chris says that when it comes to Net Neutrality, the consumer would benefit with more competition, not less. But most cities have internet monopolies with only a few providers and that keeps the cost up. Third party DSL services have helped, and when the FCC issued must carry rules for them, it helped a lot. A true free market with choices would solve the net neutrality issues.
This week marked the annual Day of Action for Net Neutrality designed to lobby the FCC and Congress. Leo says that naturally, most of the broadcasters ignored or gave lip service to covering the event, because they are all tied to major internet providers who "have a dog in this hunt." Leo says that the internet needs to be treated like a utility, something that needs to be open and available to all.
Lucille is worried that the government will be able to look into our search history. Leo says that ISPs will be able to sell our history, but they will hold onto it, not the federal government. But let's face it, if they want it, they can get it.
Your ISP knows all of your data. But Google is responding to this by encrypting everyone's search history, so no one can see it. The data could be sold off, but it wouldn't be usable then. What isn't encrypted, they'll be able to not only read, but sell.
With the new chairman and his anti net neutrality views, the FCC has changed direction on a rule that would require cable companies to allow users to use third party set top boxes. Leo said it was a great idea, but in reality, cable companies were starting to see the handwriting on the wall that cutting the cable is gathering speed. The FCC has also allowed for zero rating, where you can get free data if you watch streaming from partnered services.
Seth is hearing that some cities want to tax streaming services. Leo says that is horrible. Pasadena is charging 9.4% on each streaming service starting in January. The argument is that cities are losing revenue due to cord cutting. 9.4% is a high percentage, and isn't it taxing citizens twice? They already tax the internet access, so why would people have to pay that tax twice because of streaming? It's also highly problematic from a net neutrality aspect. Will they pick and chose what services to tax? All bits should be treated equally.
The FCC this week voted 3-2 to reclassify broadband providers as telecommunications companies. This gives the FCC the ability to regulate the internet. The FCC has tried to regulate internet service providers, but was thwarted by lawsuits. The courts agreed that the FCC had no right to regulate them unless they were telecommunications companies, not information companies. After considerable debate and 4 million comments to the FCC website, the FCC voted on Thursday to reclassify internet service providers as telecommunications companies.
Mark says if the government wants to make broadband internet a utility, the FCC should regulate it like a utility. He makes the point that the reason it's a utility is because there's only one place to get it, like the gas or electric companies. Leo says we can blame the FCC for giving the cable companies a monopoly years ago. But he says they had been more or less blackmailed into that decision because the cable companies told the FCC they wouldn't build out the infrastructure otherwise.
Scott wants to chime in on Net Neutrality since it does affect Home Theater Geeks who rely on streaming video. If there had been tiered access, it could affect our entertainment options. Leo says that there hasn't really been a prime example of this, save Comcast and Verizon shaking down Netflix for "interconnect." But that's a prime example of what Scott calls "paid prioritization." And this Net Neutrality decision should stop that. But internet service providers are going to sue against the new rules as well. So it's not over yet.