Wednesday, July 12, 2017

We wouldn't let our Fedex driver get away with it...

Imagine you order a critical drug from an online pharmacy.  Overnight shipping is free because it it built into the price.  And your local pharmacy can't get your specialized drug to you sooner.

The next day comes a knock on your door.  It is your Fedex driver.  He says he has your package on his truck.  "Great!", you say, "bring it in."

He then asks for $25.  "But the shipping is already paid for!" you protest using bad grammar.

"Yes," he explains, "you paid your online pharmacy and they paid Fedex, but I feel entitled to a bonus for giving it to you.  You can pay me $25 and get it tomorrow, or I'll bring it to you for no extra cost, but in five days."

Or worse, he tells you he has a private deal with a competitor of your online pharmacy and if you order from them he'll bring you the order as soon as he gets it.

That's Net Neutrality in a nutshell.

When we go to a website, we expect that website to come up on our screens as fast as the Internet and our local Internet Service Provider (think Comcast, Verizon, Frontier etc.) can bring it to us.

The website or service (Netflix, Hulu, Soundcloud, Spotify etc.) pay millions in bandwidth costs to access the internet and send it to us. That cost covers getting the content from their places of business to within a few miles of our homes.

And we pay our ISP's perhaps hundreds of dollars a month to deliver the content that last couple of miles. (higher than many other countries).  Overall, our ISPs are responsible for a minuscule portion of the trip.

But the Comcasts,Verizons, Frontiers and their ilk want the right to not only charge us for the content we want, but also charge the websites and services.

They want to be able to tell Netflix "Pay us and we'll deliver your content efficiently. Don't pay us, and we'll slow it down and your customers will experience buffering and delays that'll make your competitor, who does pay us, look better by comparison."

Even more draconian, they might not even offer a website an opportunity to pay, slowing down a website they don't like to the point of uselessness.  A website has a political view contrary to the CEO of the ISP?  Too bad, you'll never see it.  While that's unlikely, it is feasible without Net Neutrality protections.

And it's not as if we can tell a company with those bad practices "Screw you--we'll go to your competition!"  For many of us there is no competition.  Many homes in the US have only one broadband provider in their communities. Those of us with two, find they offer startlingly similar levels of service at nearly identical prices. And neither seem ready to embrace Net Neutrality as a marketing ploy; they both oppose it.

The current administration and its head of the FCC, former Verizon attorney Ajit Pai, are moving to do away with Net Neutrality protections currently in place. The changes sought by Pai have no tangible benefits for citizens and consumers, but enormous opportunities for his former employer and other ISPs (ironically some of the most hated companies by consumers in America -- you'd think we would not want to reward their bad behavior!).

How can you oppose this? How can you make your feelings known?  The FCC is taking comments up until July 17.  You can read how to best make your feelings known from this article at Mashable.

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