by Taylor Clayton
So you order two packages from two different companies and they are both set to arrive on the same day. The truck that is payed to deliver your packages arrives at your house, but the driver in charge of carrying the packages to your door has had a long day and decides that he only wants to carry one package all the way up your driveway. He looks at the labels and realizes that one comes from a small company, Company A, and the other comes from the largest company in town, Company B. He knows that most of his business comes from Company B so he calls up the owner and tells him that he’s standing in front of a house and can’t decide whether to carry Company A or Company B’s package up to the customer. You, being the customer, have already payed for both packages and expect them both today. The driver offers that if Company B pays him a little money on the side he might be willing deliver their package instead. Company B, taken off guard by this proposition ends up paying the money because they don’t have any other options. There aren’t any other mail services in the area and if they want to continue making their products, Company B must use this service, even if they’re being unfair. The driver then delivers you your package from Company B and you don’t receive your other box until much later than expected.
Sounds unfair, right? Companies that do things like delivering mail should not be allowed to withhold things we order from other companies. In fact, there are rules in place to keep these corporations in check. As common carriers they are not allowed to distinguish between the things they deliver, whether that be phone calls through a telephone provider or the people on a flight through an airline. Telephone companies may not drop your calls simply because they do not like who you are talking to and airlines cannot turn you away because they disagree with your beliefs. It seems that the internet should be the same way, but you may be surprised to hear that internet service providers are not held to the same standards. They are not classified as common carriers and are not subject to the same rules as other corporations, which, in and of itself, is both a blessing and a curse. These companies help by preventing spam and stopping attacks on users from hackers, but what happens when they decide to do more or when they start taking advantage of consumers and producers alike?
It’s actually already started. A while back Comcast and other ISPs(Internet Service Providers) like it began to slow down the speed at which Netflix was being streamed, all the while denying the fact. Netflix didn’t like this and started a private conversation with Comcast. In the end Netflix and Comcast made a deal that involves millions of dollars and a fast track to customers. Netflix takes up about 30% of the countries broadband usage and now through Comcast they’re going faster than ever. Netflix has the money and resources to pay to have their website stream faster, but what happens to smaller companies who don’t have that kind of money? They get left in the dust, and soon enough all we’ll have is the large companies of the world controlling the internet.
But what if there were a solution? What if we could make everything even again? Most people think the place to start is the FCC. If we classify ISPs as common carriers they would be required to allow internet users to stream whatever websites they choose, no matter who owns that website. They wouldn’t be able to slow down a website because it makes them lose money as a company. Right now ISPs have substantial control over what loads and what doesn’t for consumers and, unfortunately, it takes a while for the general public to take notice. There may not be a perfect answer, but it’s clear that right now we’re on the fast track to an internet completely different than what we’re used to.