You could soon be paying to access Facebook and other social media platforms as the FCC plans to dismantle net neutrality, putting the power of the internet in the hands of telecommunications companies.
Net neutrality regulates government and service providers by compelling them to treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. This essentially means that, in the United States, service providers like Verizon will be able to slow down connections for users accessing particular websites, like Facebook, Netflix or YouTube, which would give them the power to unduly influence the online content that we have access to.
The danger of this, although obvious is best explained by John Oliver in 2014 on his HBO show, Last Week Tonight.
So the internet, which has been run on a relatively even playing field ever since Net neutrality has been an issue of contention in the mid-90s. The level to which it is imposed varies around the world, but the common thread is that the field of telecommunications is often dominated by a handful of service providers, if not just one. This means that service providers have essentially had carte blanche over the speed of your connection and consistently “throttle” connections as they see fit. However, with the FCC set to ditch net neutrality rules, it means you might have to pay additional fees to access certain websites.
For example, your service provider may charge you $50 for a connection, giving you access to most websites for free. However, for access to Facebook, there is an additional $15 fee, for YouTube another $15 dollars, for Instagram $10 and so on… For unlimited access to the internet, you could end up paying $150. Therefore, access to the internet will become a privilege, a premium product for those who can afford it, automatically excluding the rest.
However, there is a solution and it is the decentralized internet, which puts your internet connection in your hands, with the price of your connection being determined by market forces and no markup.
For example, Ammbris a foundation who are in the process of developing a router with Blockchain technology and WiFi powered through Mesh Networks. The basic idea is that you use a cryptocurrency called AMMBR to buy or sell an internet connection from your neighbor, whose connected to another neighbor, and another and another… There remain backhaul nodes to the Mesh Network – points where one of the router owners connect to the internet through a fixed line, but the internet is essentially shared between the users themselves, taking the power away from a central authority (i.e. service providers).
The technology behind it, the Blockchain and Mesh networks, has become fairly mainstream, with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum starting to gain some serious momentum, while more and more people are creating private Mesh networks to improve the range of their routers at home or in the office. Ammbr’s initiative to combine the technologies is primarily targeted at connecting 4.1 billion people who do not have access to a fast, reliable internet connection, specifically in the developing world, where the infrastructure is all but nonexistent.
However, born out of the necessity created by the monopoly and collusion that will emerge from the dismantling of Net neutrality, the first world needs to seriously contemplate how vital it is that they take the power out of the big plplayers’ands and decentralize the internet.