Media

We Better Get Net Neutrality Signed into Law Before Media Mergers Kill the Internet as We Know It

In a world without net-neutrality, internet service providers will be able to “package” websites, a lot like cable providers do with TV channels.

Comcast, the nation’s largest cable television provider, majority owner of NBC and MSNBC, and one of the nation’s largest internet service providers, recently announced that it will be buying Time Warner Cable, the nation’s second largest cable television provider, for $45 billion.

That’s a very big deal, pun intended.

And it has huge implications for the type and amount of content consumers will have access to.

Comcast and Time Warner are two of America’s largest internet service providers, providing millions of Americans access to the World Wide Web.

If you factor in Comcast’s proposed takeover of Time Warner, with last month’s ruling on net neutrality, American consumers could be screwed.

Last month, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Obama administration’s net-neutrality rules.

Those rules were put in place to prevent big internet service providers, like Comcast and Time Warner, from slowing down your access to certain websites or charging for access to websites.

For example, with net-neutrality rules in place, Comcast wouldn’t be able to slow down your access or charge more for your access to HBO or CBS or CNN, just because they wanted you to use NBC which they own and operate.

Thanks to the D.C. Circuit Court’s ruling and the potential takeover of Time Warner, Comcast is well on its way to being able to discriminate between websites, and to make the owners of competitor websites pay more money to run their websites at higher speeds and to reach millions of American consumers.

And it also means that Comcast can jack up internet costs.

Back in 2009, Reddit user Quink created a graphic, detailing what internet prices might look like without net-neutrality

Since last month’s court ruling, the graphic has gone viral, and it does a great job detailing a world without net-neutrality.

The graphic talks about a fictional internet service provider named TELCO.

With TELCO, in this new world we are in now without net-neutrality, they could set it up so you get basic internet service for $29.95 per month, with a big catch!.

The catch is, good luck finding any websites that you can access with that plan.

That’s because in a world without net-neutrality, internet service providers will be able to “package” websites, a lot like cable providers do with TV channels.

For example, if you’re a search engine user, and love looking up things on Google, Bing or Yahoo, then TELCO would charge you an extra $5 per month for access.

What if you’re a real news junkie, and like taking in the news from a global perspective?

TELCO would charge you another $5 per month to access international news websites like the BBC.

But don’t think that means TELCO will give you access to U.S.-based news for free.

Nope, it wants you to pay another $5 per month for access to American news websites like CNN, The Huffington Post, and The New York Times.

Now, say you’re done reading the news, and want to watch the latest viral YouTube hit, or an episode of your favorite show on Netflix.

To do either of those things, you’re going to have to pay TELCO an extra $10 to$15 per month.

Finally, say you’re a big online shopper.

Well, if you want access to sites like Amazon, Ebay, or Overstock.com, you’ll have to pay TELCO another $5 per month.

While this could happen today, if the Comcast-Time Warner merger goes through, it becomes far more likely.

So shouldn’t we be enforcing things like the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, so that we have a lot of small and medium-sized internet service providers competing with each other, keeping down prices for American consumers?

And isn’t time to put net-neutrality into law so that these big internet service providers can’t Balkanize the internet like with Quink’s telco example?

Thom Hartmann is an author and nationally syndicated daily talk show host. His newest book is "The Crash of 2016: The Plot to Destroy America — and What We Can Do to Stop It."

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