Update Dec. 14th 1:53pm EST: The FCC has voted (in a 3-2 vote) to undo Net Neutrality regulations, moving instead to grant unrestricted power to cable providers and ISPs to completely change the way you access information on the internet.
Prior to the vote, several activist groups had openly consulted legal council and voiced their intent on bringing forward lawsuits to combat this sweeping removal of sensible regulation. Right now, Congress still has the power to reverse this decision. Until that happens though, it's uncertain what will happen moving forward.
You can still make a difference. Call your Congressional representatives to express your displeasure with the outcome of the vote. Your voice matters and your opinions can make a difference. If you are frustrated by the outcome of this vote, you are not alone, and there is strength in numbers. Tell Congress to reserve the vote to repeal Net Neutrality using either of the sources listed at the end of this article, or via any platform that you have available to you.
I think we can all collectively agree that the thing we hate most about cable companies isn’t necessarily their outrageous pricing tiers; it’s the fact that those pricing tiers break up the available channels into packages.
And 99% of the time, the only channel you really want is in a package that costs an arm, a leg, and your first-born child. It’s the worst.
Why is this relevant? Because, as it stands, the Internet doesn’t work this way, and it’s because of Net Neutrality. But that could all change today.
What's Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is the concept that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must treat all data on the Internet the same, regardless of who created it or who is accessing it. It is what stops ISPs from speeding up, slowing down, or blocking content at their leisure, or charging consumers more money for access to specific content the way those pesky cable packages do. John Oliver has a very concise, comprehensive way of explaining Net Neutrality that you can watch here (be warned that the language, while hysterical, is slightly NSFW, so be sure to watch with headphones!).
Today, Dec. 14, 2017, at 10:30am EST, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will take a vote on whether or not to repeal Net Neutrality (you can follow along with that vote here). This repeal would allow ISPs to arbitrarily funnel content into either a fast lane or a slow lane, or completely block altogether any online content that they disagree with or dislike.
With almost everything taking place online these days, and our obvious love for all things technology related, it’s important to take a minute to explain how losing Net Neutrality could potentially influence you and your business.
I do want to stress that the following scenarios are not guaranteed to happen—they are possible outcomes made based on the knowledge that without Net Neutrality, cable companies and ISPs will be granted unchecked power to arbitrarily prioritize and block information. Like these scenarios, this repeal solely benefits internet service and cable providers, not American constituents.
How a Repeal Could Impact Your Management Company
Obviously, TOPS Software is an avid proponent of software solutions that make your lives easier. Many software solutions (including our own TOPS [ONE]) are web-based, meaning that the application comes from a specific ISP via a server-hosting facility.
Let’s say your management company uses AT&T for their on-site Internet provider. If AT&T decides to package all other providers up and say, “any data coming from another ISP will be not take priority and the speeds will be slower than content originating from AT&T,” and your primary software solution’s server-hosting company uses literally anyone that isn’t AT&T, your software solution would operate more slowly than everything else, making your job exponentially harder unless you’re willing or able to switch to the ISP that powers that software’s server-hosting company. However, if you use multiple web-based software solutions that come from multiple ISPs, there would likely be no solution for slowed access if they collectively decide to prioritize only their own content.
There is also the possibility that, like cable companies currently do, ISPs could begin to charge additional fees for a whole variety of “Internet Services.” For example, if your company uses any kind of social media to promote themselves, and your ISP decides to block major social networking sites and charge a monthly fee to unblock them, it would cost your company more money to do what it is currently doing for free.
How a Repeal Could Impact Your Association
It’s not uncommon for HOAs or Condo boards to establish a partnership with an ISP where, in exchange for pushing new homeowners to said ISP, their community is offered a competitive monthly rate for services. If this is the case for your association, the repeal could cause a few headaches for you (and your homeowners).
If you’re an HOA or Condo that contracts specifically with, let’s say Verizon, and the FCC repeals Net Neutrality, Verizon would be free to put all non-Verizon content in a “slow lane.” Which, in theory, sounds kind of nice if you’re a Verizon client—all of your content is delivered quickly without any kind of loading time outs. But, for a homeowner who took advantage of the contracted rate for their home, but uses AT&T for their cell phone, paying their phone bill just became that much harder. And there really isn’t an easy way for that homeowner to circumvent that headache. They could switch cell phone providers to match their in-home ISP, but that can be costly and frustrating. They could switch their in-home ISP to match their cell phone provider, but that’s usually just as challenging and expensive—and if you’re a condo that isn’t technologically outfitted to use a different ISP than the one your contract is with, that option isn’t even possible.
If your condo association has a designated ISP that is paid for by condo fees, this could bring even more problems. Unless homeowners have some freedom to modify the plan the ISP provides to them, they would be incapable of adding on services to speed up the information they need access to (assuming that is even an option), or pay additional fees (like the social media fee I postulated earlier) for access to additional services. Instead, this responsibility would fall on the condo association board, as they would have to find a way to renegotiate the contractual requirements for providing services to the condo, and without a doubt would have to increase condo fees to accommodate those changes.
How a Repeal Could Impact You as an Internet User
On top of all of the problems mentioned above (all of which would impact you on an individual level as well as from a business standpoint), there’s another possibility that has a lot of people talking.
2017 is the year Merriam-Webster added the word “binge-watch” to the dictionary, and honestly, I’m so glad. Who doesn’t love a good binge session of Stranger Things? But unfortunately, streaming services are probably the most likely to see a negative impact with a repeal of Net Neutrality.
If an ISP decides to slow all content from Netflix (or Hulu, or any other streaming service really) unless the consumer pays an additional monthly fee, or unless Netflix pays their way into the fast lane (hopefully on the specific ISP you utilize!), you’ll be stuck on that endless buffering loop for the rest of eternity. And if you pay for multiple streaming services, it’s entirely possible that if one (say Netflix) opts to pay their way into Comcast’s fast lane, it will likely be because Comcast has agreed not to prioritize any other streaming services (Hulu, for example), forcing non-Netflix users who patronize Comcast to suffer.
What Can I Do?
If you’re reading this before 10:30AM EST on Thursday Dec. 14th, you can still make a difference. And making a difference doesn’t have to mean going out of your way to find some antiquated method of contacting your elected officials. Here are a couple free sites and services that simplify making your voice heard:
- I’ve found this site to be incredibly helpful. You can choose to send a message to Congress, and/or use their site to generate a phone call to Congress. They’ll even provide you with a basic script so you stay on track (which is great if you’re like me and get flustered easily on the phone).
- Resistbot has several different platforms for you to access. The easiest is to text the word RESIST to 50409 (or 202 - 335 - 4008 if your provider blocks short codes) and the automated service, run by a team of volunteers, will walk you through creating a message that will be sent electronically to the Congressional message system (or, if that system if malfunctioning, it will offer to fax or mail your message). You can even opt to hand-sign a letter if the device you access it from allows for a digital signature, like an iPhone. Resistbot is also available via Facebook Messenger and Viber.