Unless something the scale of what happened yesterday, December 12, in Alabama happens tomorrow, December 14, the Internet as we know it will be gone. The Federal Communications Commission is supposed to vote to end “Net Neutrality”.
Many of you have seen tweets, posts on Facebook or even received e-mails on this issue. But what exactly is “Net Neutrality”. It would be easy to go back to the old “information superhighway” that was used in the early days of the net. But a better analogy may be an amusement park. Many parks have “priority lanes” for some rides where users who pay for an armband or other pass can skip the lines. With “Net Neutrality” there were no such lanes, all traffic passed with no special priority.
What looks likely to happen tomorrow is that providers will be able to give content the ability to “jump the line”. This could be based on a fee a customer pays, a fee a site or service pays or even the whims of the provider. A provider could also throttle or slow down a particular page; Comcast could give content from NBC priority and throttle content for ABC. Verizon, my current provider, could make me use Yahoo. The information security podcast Greynoise gave an excellent list of examples of what a post-neutrality net may look like; It’s not a pretty picture.
A better question may be, why? There are a few obvious answers; Trump’s desire to undo everything Obama has done, the pro-corporate mentality of Trump, etc. There may be something more sinister at play here though.
Trump knows how well “The Resistance” has used the internet. It started almost as soon as he was elected; Disrupt J20 and the Women’s March, the actions around the ACA, and the Alabama Senate election all utilized the net to organize and mobilize. Thousands of progressive podcasts, blogs and social media feeds bring information that the corporate media refuses to cover to an audience it could not have reached in decades past. Who’s to say Verizon couldn’t be asked to throttle “Democracy Now”, or CenturyLink to give the NRA priority over “The Trace” (in the interest of disclosure, I was employed by CenturyLink from 2011-2015).
This would be nothing new. Governments have always found ways to stifle, silence or stop dissenters. The dissidents have found ways to persist in their resistance. There are methods that could be used to get around artificial blocks to information, that is for another post though.