With the controversial end of Net Neutrality, we may see beloved sites like Netflix and YouTube drastically altered.
Net Neutrality was a principle that allowed Internet users to surf the web freely and have access to any content that they desire regardless of what Internet Service Provider they may have. In mid-January The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of the Verizon Communications Inc. The argument Verizon proposed was that Net Neutrality forced them to support their competition. Verizon, Comcast and other Internet Service Providers have stream videos on their respective websites, but with Net Neutrality, users had the option to ignore those websites and use Netflix and other popular video streaming sites such as Vimeo, Hulu and Vevo. The three judges ruling in the case simply found it unlawful for the FCC to tell ISPs how to run their companies. With the end of Net Neutrality, the future may hold an Internet with restrictions to not only Netflix but also other popular websites that we all use regularly.
ISPs are restricting the amount of bandwidth that users are allowed when they use Netflix and other similar sites. According to Margaret Rouse of Searchenterprisewan.com, bandwidth is “often used as a synonym for data transfer rate – the amount of data that can be carried from one point to another in a given time period (usually a second)”. Bandwidth is essential for video streaming websites like Netflix because the videos they stream are enormous files that require much more bandwidth than text-based websites. Because they own the bandwidth, ISPs are now not only allowed to set cap limits on the amount of bandwidth a consumer can have but they also can reduce the amount of bandwidth allocated to specific websites.
With the restrictions on Netflix and other websites, they are now starting to broker deals with the ISPs to once again allow users to freely access their websites with no bandwidth problems. As recently as the end of February, Todd Spangler of Variety.com reported “Comcast and Netflix announced a multiyear network-interconnection agreement, under which the Internet streaming company is paying for direct access to the cable operator’s network — promising better video quality for Comcast broadband subs”. This deal is just the beginning of Netflix paying the powerful ISPs. This deal guarantees Comcast providers a better experience with Netflix video streaming but the problem still exists for the people that don’t pay Comcast for an Internet Service. There are overwhelming questions as to what will happen with Netflix.
Will the company raise the prices of the monthly service to compensate for this deal as well as others that they’ll eventually broker or will they simply be overpowered by the ISPs and fall under?
We may very well see YouTube and other free video streaming websites bring in monthly charges just as Netflix has instilled. This blow will affect the millions of college students across the country as many of us use YouTube and other video streaming sites on a daily basis. We may see a future where information is restricted unless a fee is paid. McDaniel Communication professor Dr. Robert J. Trader has even chimed in on the situation, stating that “ISPs don’t have a right to set the price on information they didn’t create nor do they own”. Outside of the obvious entertainment purposes, he also believes that the court ruling will affect college students indirectly because “libraries will start to have problems accessing scholarly journals” and “many [academic] classes utilize YouTube”. This restriction of the Internet can open the doors for ISPs to restrict whatever they justifiably can. Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, two of the most viewed websites on the Internet, may also have to face the ISPs in the future.
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