Net neutrality is over, but what does that mean for your pocketbook?
On Monday, a repeal of net neutrality rules that required regulators to treat all companies using the internet equally went into effect. Before, internet service providers had to treat all websites and content providers the same. People will now, in theory, be able to purchase different internet speeds from their cable provider for different prices, but critics say an end to net neutrality could favor services that pay more to internet service providers.
It’s still illegal to throttle internet content or block certain websites, Brendan Carr, commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission said on Monday. “This does not mean your broadband provider now has free rein to dictate your online experience,” he said.
But the end of net neutrality could mean extra costs for businesses and, therefore, consumers, said Steven Andres, an information systems lecturer at the San Diego State University and expert on net neutrality. Here are some of those potential costs:
Paying fees for certain services like gaming
The current internet model treats all content the same, but features like video streaming or gaming could become more expensive.
If an internet provider decides to slow video streaming or impose a fee on it, companies like Netflix
could be forced to pay more or risk losing customers who are frustrated with slow loading times. Netflix, in turn, could also raise monthly subscription prices. (Netflix did not respond to request for comment).
“As a consumer, you may think ‘Well, I’m not going to pay higher rates, I’ll just stream from Comcast since it’s faster anyway,’ and therein we see what many consider an unfair practice that manipulates the otherwise open Internet,” Andres said.
Subscriptions for sites like Facebook
Other countries also operate without an “open internet” where all sites should be treated equally by internet service providers. Portugal, for instance, allows unlimited use of certain websites at a fixed rate.
Meo, a large internet provider there, offers a “social” package with Facebook
Messenger, Pinterest and LinkedIn for 5 euros (almost $6) per month. A package including quick internet for video services like YouTube and Netflix is an additional 5 euros or $6 dollars.
Last April, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg hinted that the social network might charge for certain services. He told Congress, “There will always be a version of Facebook that is free.” (Facebook did not respond to request for comment.)
In Portugal, with no net neutrality, internet providers are starting to split the net into packages. pic.twitter.com/TlLYGezmv6
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) October 27, 2017
In the U.S., people may ultimately have to cobble together an internet plan with packages like these, said Robert Ricci, executive director of marketing at digital agency Blue Fountain Media. This is not a subscription, but a fee for faster connections, he said.
The internet could follow the cable subscription model
Ultimately, the internet could someday look like the current cable model where the internet service provider takes a portion of advertising revenue and subscriber fees. “This would be gradual and would most likely affect new services that would have been free, but we may now have to pay for,” said Marty Puranik, chief executive officer of cloud service provider Atlantic.Net.
Despite high-resolution movies and virtual reality, and increased speeds, internet costs have not risen proportionately, especially given that the average American spends approximately 40 hours per week online, he said.
That may change. Many people are familiar with the dreaded messages from phone service providers alerting them that the monthly data limit has been hit.
We may soon see such alerts for our home internet usage, Andres said. This makes most sense for companies, given the amount of content currently being served for free, Ricci said.