What would happen without net neutrality?

The proposed net neutrality regulations from the FCC pose some major changes to the future of the Internet. From an economic perspective, we need to make sure we have the right incentives in place for long-term success of Internet development. From a consumer perspective, we want universal access to the Internet at high speed and low cost. How do we align these two goals? Dealhack wanted to know whether increased government regulation will have good or bad effects.

Proposed net neutrality laws consist of:

Increased transparency from ISPs

ISPs can not block legal content

ISPs can not create unreasonable discrimination in the marketplace

The nuances of each section are important and worth reviewing for those with a keen interest in net neutrality regulations. Basically, these laws would try to make sure that cable companies (ISPs) are playing fair. What would happen if ISPs did not have to be transparent? Or if they could block legal content? Or they could unreasonably discriminate? We explore these three possibilities below. If you'd like to use any of these images, see our fair use at the bottom.

Scenario 1: If cable companies didn't need to be transparent...

The worst part about a lack of transparency is that ISPs could play cat and mouse, letting consumers (the mouse) think they have a chance at freedom, when really the ISP (the cat) can pounce at any moment. This could mean even more uncertainty with how much you pay for your Internet subscription.

What this might look like...

Scenario 2: If cable companies could block legal content...

While seemingly unlikely, ISPs could find ways to effectively block certain types of content based on your subscription level. This currently happens with premium channels like HBO. This may only be the case if there is no competition for the ISP and they have a local monopoly.

What this might look like...

Scenario 3: If cable companies could unreasonably discriminate...

Favoring an affiliated company could potentially shift consumer flow toward their affiliated company based on experiencing higher levels of quality. You may have to read your cable company’s “100% satisfaction guarantee” policy very closely in the future...

What this might look like...

Comments to the FCC

The FCC opened a two-month window inviting the public to comment on the proposed rules. Many very passionate people had a lot to say about these rules. We scraped the public comments from the FCC’s website for the location and date of everyone who left a comment, including comments via email before net neutrality regulations were proposed. This is what that looks like.

The earliest comments were from emails to the FCC. Notice the surges around 5/15 (when the online comment period opened) and after 6/1 (John Oliver’s invitation to comment to the FCC).

What do people think about net neutrality?

We surveyed over 1,000 people to see for ourselves what they thought about possible net neutrality laws.

Our future predictions

We predict that the “last mile” regulation will prove to be the most important part of promoting ISP competition. Consumers, businesses, and governments will all benefit by removing some of the regulatory hurdles for new, innovative companies to build even faster infrastructure. Case in point: Google Fiber. We need to balance free-market principles with regulation to ensure we have enough incentives for companies to invest and for companies to play fairly. The FCC will be deciding on interconnection agreements after the net neutrality laws are decided. We need to make sure to stay ever-vigilant of these important topics if we want to keep the Internet a free platform for innovation.

Fair Use

Feel free to use any of the images found in this project. When doing so, please attribute the creators by linking to this project so your audience may learn about the intended context for each image and access all assets that are available.