ELI5 The new Net Neutrality stuff

So, I'm confused on what the Net Neutrality laws are. I tried to read an article on it, but I didn't take anything away from it. Could somebody please explain what the laws are?

I don't think there are any new laws just yet. The latest rumor is that the FCC is going to declare the world wide web a "public utility" and then regulate how ISPs do business on it. The downside is that it will permit ISPs to charge special rates for extra speed or bandwidth. The upside--at least in theory--is that it will force ISPs to provide the same rates to all customers, so they can't, for example, jack up the rates for netflix because they hate netflix.

But I haven't heard anything more specific than that. Rumor is the official recommendation will be out in a month. I'm not really very hopeful that it'll be a good one.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtt2aSV8wdw&index=13&list=UU2C_jShtL725hvbm1arSV9w is a great, simple summation of what Net Neutrality is, as a whole, and why it matters.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpbOEoRrHyU discusses recentish events - the merger and the nature of the Duopoly/FCC relationship.

What's been happening for the last while is that ISPs (internet service providers like Comcast or Verizon) are trying to game the system to get more control of the internet. In recent history, they have, in no particular order...

1. Not specifically tied to Net Neutrality, but they have tried to seize control of the internet in a very Patriot-act-esque way with S.O.P.A. - saying "We have a huge problem here with piracy, it's costing a lot of people a lot of money, and we can't stop it without special rules." - the big rule being the ability for anyone to shut any site down by saying "It's copyrighted!". If they do this, then the ISPs and search engines can't host or list the site and it basically disappears from the internet just like that. It only goes back on the internet if they file the paperwork back in response and even pay fees/lawyers to get it done right. This makes things very hard on the little guy, crushes small ISPs who can't handle the demand or small businesses/startups that can't answer every frivolous notice from a competitor. Essentially the big guys get more power and the little guys get stepped on. The focus isn't piracy at all, but changing how things work and getting a bit more leverage to get more power.

SOPA was stopped. They tried to rebrand it, change some of the language and push it through again, calling it PIPA. PIPA was also stopped.

2. In contrast to #1s failure, there's been a lot of success with money being thrown around. Senators are getting a lot of money (ie. a $30,000 present from Comcast) from lobbyists, and consequently voting in favor of the ISP guys. A lot of stuff that shouldn't have passed or should have been looked at more closely was okayed as a result.

3. As mentioned in the second video above, a former member of the industry, the guy in charge of paying politicians to help the ISPs, was put in charge of the FCC, the organization in charge of making sure the ISPs behave. The fox watching the henhouse.

4. The ISPs have been very, very lazy about maintaining things. For the most part, Customer A might have bought and paid for 30 MB/s of internet, but only used 8 MB/s, most of the time. So the wires weren't updated and servers weren't kept up to date. After all, if you have 100 customers on this plan, they're using only 800 MB/s of internet, not 3000. It was good for the ISPs and nobody really cared... until Netflix came around. When people started getting Netflix, they started using that 30 MB/s instead of the 8, watching a lot of shows online. The ISPs weren't able to handle the load (because stuff wasn't maintained or updated) and they blamed Netflix, and they said Netflix owed more money because Netflix was putting an unreasonable load on the system, and they demanded a lot of money from Netflix. When Netflix didn't pay, the ISPs slowed down Netflix for everyone, as extortion. Despite this being against the law (Net Neutrality law: all data should be treated equally), they were able to do it because they gave a lot of money to politicians and the FCC didn't want to stop them (because the guy in charge of the FCC is their friend).

5. That last thing started a lot of the debate about Net Neutrality, and when people complained and pointed out how it's against the law, the internet companies went to the government and said they wanted the legal right to discriminate. They say they want to give us 'fast lanes' and they can't because of Net Neutrality rules, but the fast lane is just the regular lane, and what they really want is to make it so everyone who doesn't pay them extra (be it a customer or website) gets stuck in the slow lane, where things aren't maintained or updated and the internet move at a crawl. If this happens/happened, they'd basically get money from both ends.

6. They've been using a lot of marketing and tactics to confuse the issue - they released proposals saying "This is the net neutrality proposal" while saying "This proposal gives us the right to treat all data UNequally", just to confuse the issue and make it harder for people to say "I support Net Neutrality."

7. The biggest problem and the biggest solution are summed up as such: They're going to keep trying. Just like they tried with SOPA and then tried again with PIPA, and a whole bunch of other attempts that didn't quite make it through the Senate, they're going to keep making an effort until something slips through. We can stop them by having the FCC brand them as a public utility (like water or electricity), which would impose rules they can't easily work around or bend. But just like they did with the term 'net neutrality' in point #5 above, they're trying to push a bill through which says "This is a bill to make internet a public utility... BUT we get a ton of power and the ability to bend and break the rules." See what I mean?

If these guys succeed in merging into a monopoly and/or abolishing Net Neutrality, you're going to see the very nature of the internet change. First in America, then across the world as others follow suit. Companies will all have to pay to make sure their sites and services aren't slowed down, customers will have to pay more, and new internet businesses will be unable to get started because of the initial cost of getting access to the 'fast' (read: normal) lane and avoid having their stuff slowed down a ton.

In the extreme case the internet may well be packaged like Cable TV is (Get access to premium sites like Wordpress, Google and Reddit for $10 more a month! Pay $.10 to be able to see this webcomic for the next month!) or packaged with other stuff (Pay $750 a month for standard internet, phone and cable, or get none of the above!). What are you going to do if you don't want to pay that much? You have no other choice. There'd be no other company to go to for service, and these guys have no reason to listen or obey if you complain. Basically this: http://youtu.be/IK7ix5BwCjk?t=59s

Everyone except the ISPs lose if this goes through.

Wildbow, you paint a very ugly picture. I just wish it looked less like reality.

He's good at that, isn't he?

Comcast's Xfinity has recently rolled out a series of trials for alternate means of handling customer data caps. In one city, they rolled out the first trial plan. In another city, they rolled out the second. The third plan, the most egregious one, was rolled out in nine cities. This plan they're most invested in testing gives customers a $5 bonus but reduces their cap on data from 300GB to 5GB. If you use more than the 5 GB, then you lose the $5 bonus and you pay $1 per GB over the limit. According to some sources (the plan is already in effect in places), your internet gets shut off once you hit the $295 overage charge.

To put this in perspective, watching 1.5 hours of hi def video is about 3 GB of data. Under the new plan, one is going from having 100 hours (or ~3 hours/day) of Netflix to having 2.4 hours of Netflix in a *month*, before being subject to additional fees. This doesn't account for usual browsing habits (bandwidth for gaming or loading websites).

Ostensibly, this plan will be an option, but people in affected areas have already reported being switched over (for the sake of the trial) without their knowledge, their bills unexpectedly rising by $50-90. One can also raise questions of whether this is preying on the poor or the ignorant (those who see the $5 bonus on their bill and don't read the full info). One could compare it and the ramifications to the rent-to-own stores that are so prevalent in low-income areas. Many of the people in affected areas (many of which are more rural) have no choice of service provider except for Comcast.

This is what the internet may well look like in the US, if everything moves forward.

That seems quite reasonable and not at all evil.

Ugh. People need to not be evil. It just annoys everyone else, and costs them money and time.

This sounds awful. The internet is the poor man's source of entertainment and knowledge. If you make it expensive to use, a lot of people will be robbed of their only affordable means of entertainment (apart from TV, which doesn't ever show anything worthwhile).

I live off an equivalent of 2K dollars a month, myself... in a country where even the cheapest of apartments cost 1K a month. I can't afford to buy books, buy movies or go out. Just eating reasonably well is already a stretch.

I don't live in the USA, but I really feel for people who do.

Sounds like this is really, really going to hurt Netflix.

So, a friend sent me this link to a really funny but also realistic message about net neutrality. Remember: Save the unmolested crab tacos! Support net neutrality!