Net neutrality is coming to an end, and that means Internet service providers (ISPs) will now have more leeway to meddle in the types of access their users have and the content available to them. That alone is scary. But as The Washington Post notes, that’s just one part of a one-two punch that could seriously hurt both competing businesses and consumers. The other part is that AT&T is now looking to buy Time Warner. If it’s successful, the corporation will form a massive conglomerate with an unprecedented level of control over Americans’ Internet use.
AT&T is already the country’s second-largest wireless network. If it gets even bigger by adding a major player in the content production game, it might be able to rig the system by steering people toward viewing their own TV shows and other content as opposed to that of their rivals’. If AT&T is able to use its economic clout to eliminate rivals, consumers would have little recourse against such a move.
“I think this could be a one-two punch to consumers and online competition,” Public Knowledge President Gene Kimmelman told the Post. “The combination of no net neutrality and video consolidation creates new bottlenecks that empower the traditional media industry to raise prices and limit online competition.”
The Federal Communications Commission passed a series of net neutrality protections in 2015 under President Barack Obama. These measures were designed to prevent companies like AT&T and Comcast from controlling people’s Internet use by slowing their connections, blocking access to certain sites, or charging more for certain movies or videos. Now that these protections are expiring, there’s little to stop them.
The new Republican administration running the FCC insists that the American people have no need to worry about any shady practices from ISPs. Chairman Ajit Pai told the Post that any such claims were simply false.
“Some of the politicians who’ve been grandstanding on this issue have been misinforming the public,” the chairman said, referring to Senate Democrats.
Either one side or the other will be proven right. In the coming months, we will find out which.