Is there anything more annoying than a spinning rainbow wheel, telling you that your Internet is loading? In today’s age of high-speed everything, slow Wi-Fi is more than an inconvenience, it seems like a personal offense.
But with last week’s repeal of net neutrality, that spinning wheel is about to become a familiar sight. The FCC’s repeal of the regulation—which ensured that Internet service providers (ISPs) not give preference to some digital content providers—takes the power of the free Internet away from the people and puts it into the hands of broadband providers. That means companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon can charge users extra money to access a site they don’t own or slow down pages that are unfavorable to them.
Therein lies one of the biggest dangers of the repeal, the threat it poses to free speech. Under net neutrality, ISPs couldn’t dictate who accessed what. If your news channel of choice was CNN, have at it; if it was Breitbart, that was all well and good. Now, those news sites you love to read and troll can be purposefully slowed down, so that you have no other choice but to go to another site that has been given the blessing, and therefore, faster loading ability, by the ISP.
The repeal also hurts the little guys. Up-and-coming apps and websites will find themselves at the bottom of the totem pole, competing against corporate giants that have it in good with ISP providers. The beauty of the open Internet is that an app like Candy Crush or Snapchat could reach the public in its early stages as quickly as Netflix did in its fifth year. In a world where favor is doled out by proverbial Monopoly men heading up ISPs, those apps and websites may no longer get off the ground.
I don’t want anyone dictating how many dog videos I watch, but more importantly, I don’t want to fill the pockets of an ISP executive just so I can access the news. Here’s hoping that repeal finds an end swifter than that spinning wheel of death.