If These 5 Crucial Parts of Life Were Gutted the Way the Internet Was, You’d be Freaking Out Too.
This past Thursday, the FCC board voted to remove net neutrality rules that would keep the internet free and open for all who used it. This reverses the 2015 Obama era decision to regulate the internet as a utility. The net is a vital part of the country’s infrastructure and giving Internet Service Providers (ISPs) the ability to prioritize content can have dubious consequences. To put this in context, here are how 5 other public utilities would look if regulations are gutted the same way net neutrality was.
Every month, most people pay their electric bill as part of the utilities or separately as another expense for their home. In Virginia, for example, the primary energy provider is Dominion Power Company. Under current laws, Dominion is not permitted throttle energy to any home and can only charge people for the energy they use regardless of what they use it for. If policies were changed in the same manner as net neutrality rules, Dominion could slow the stream of electricity to homes and businesses that they don’t consider a priority. Dominion could also charge extra for products that use their energy that they do not business relationships with. So if you use lightbulbs, televisions, hairdryers, or anything else that uses power, you could be charged extra if it’s not on Dominion’s “preferred list” of products.
2.) Phone Lines
Phone lines were, and still are, necessary to the success of individuals and businesses before the internet. In most cases, current law allows telephone companies to charge customers only for the amount of time they call or text or if such calls and texts are made outside of the United States. If these laws resembled what took place in the FCC chamber on Thursday, Phone companies could charge customers who called/texted competitors phones or charge individuals for making calls to specific individuals, like a toll for the congressional switchboard. (i.e they could charge you to call your congressmen)
3.) Natural Gas
Most people these days use Natural gas either to cook their food or to heat their homes. Like electricity, natural gas is a natural monopoly who’s infrastructure is expensive and timely to build. If Natural Gas was not regulated as a public utility, as will be the case with net neutrality, energy companies could prioritize homes that used certain thermostats, stovetops, or ovens making it more expensive for the average homeowner.
Water is perhaps the most vital element to humanities survival. This is why water is a Human right in most countries. For this reason, water as a utility is made available through public infrastructure to homes and business around the country. People generally pay for the amount they use. But if water was regulated the same way net neutrality was, Water companies could prioritize water to the highest bidder. Making it so only the richest could use water for drinking, cleaning, and bathing.
We won’t get to in depth with this one. But needless to say, you probably wouldn't want waste management to decide when you could or couldn’t take a dump…
You’ll probably hear ISPs like Verizon and Comcast say that they would never throttle your service nor would they ever charge you extra for certain content. And even though this is most certainly a lie, the argument is that even if they do charge extra you can go to another ISP. This, however, is why net neutrality was required in the first place. Because of how infrastructure is set up, there will only be but so many companies providing internet service, just as there will only be but so many companies providing water, electricity, or waste removal.
It’s not over. Keep fighting for the internet.