If you're not familiar with the subject, basically right now we have net neutrality. ISPs are essentially dumb pipes and they don't know or care if that data you just downloaded was in the form of historical documents from local university libraries, or an encyclopedic collection of Brazilian fecal fetish pornography. The Internet today is the wonderful, endlessly fascinating place it is in large part due to the fact that it's been free and open its entire life.
ISP's want to change that, mainly because different applications use massively different resources. There's no comparing the stress that downloading HD movies puts on their network versus, say, reading a Cracked article's worth of text. So they want to change their infrastructure and how they bill you for it.
Cracked subscription cost: A "fat wad o' cash."
The problem is this also would let them slap on all sorts of controls they never could before, such as blocking competing websites, or signing exclusive deals for content. After all, Comcast both provides Internet access to millions and owns NBC, so taking away net neutrality could let them block competing networks and that could turn ugly fast. It's thus no surprise that a variety of semi-respected sources, including the chief of the FCC, are standing up for net neutrality.
Phew! The Chairman of the FCC! We're safe, right?
The carriers continue to push against net neutrality. Its future is hardly secure, as mobile carriers AND ISPs have ample motivation. Google, patron saint of the "free information" movement, has even dipped its toes in anti-neutrality waters. They approached "major cable and phone companies" with a proposal to give Google content a "fast lane" of its own.
Cause, you know. Google needs the exposure.
Major corporations and political entities getting bandwidth preference over small, independent sites and individuals is exactly what net neutrality advocates fear the most.
So What Can We Do?
Well, this is where it gets complicated.
The ISPs aren't just being greedy here. Bandwidth costs a lot of fucking money and usage is growing at a retarded rate. For instance, most of the video game consoles now offer HD movie and TV show streaming, and soon they may give up physical media completely to stream all of the games you buy directly to the system (because it would kill off the used games market that they claim is eating all of their profits). Everybody is quickly replacing their faucets with fire hoses.
Just look at that bandwidth.
If net neutrality stays and the ISP's can't offer multiple tiers of service, then they say they will have to use an even more annoying solution: putting an end to unlimited plans completely and making you pay for every gigabyte of that Bittorrent download of every single episode of The Simpsons. And you won't be able to simply switch ISPs unless you find one run by some eccentric billionaire who feels like giving away his money for the good of the people.
Don't be a dick, Branson.
The problem is that what we want out of this situation--cheap, infinitely scalable bandwidth--is the one outcome we can't have. And while the other threats on this list can maybe be avoided, this is one that will end in the Internet being less free, you paying a lot more or a combination of both.
So enjoy what you have while you can, for these are The Good Old Days.
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