It trolls for net neutrality.
The masses have been trolling the head of the Federal Communications Commission Ajit Pai lately (my personal favorite being the meme inspired by The Elder Scrolls franchise saying "Ajit has internets if you have coin."). You may ask why so many seemingly-teenage minds have chosen to express their disdain for a man heading an organization that protects the very internet they use to mock him. The answer is because the FCC has repealed net neutrality.
I'll start off by being fair to Mr. Pai. The net neutrality rules guaranteeing internet service providers treat all online traffic equally weren't even on the scene until 2015. We've only had about two years of "equal internet" under this supposedly necessary regulatory reality. So, apparently, the world will not explode without it.
That said, something has changed since the happy, blissfully ignorant days of 2015.
Congress decided to pass a joint bill in April, allowing internet companies to collect and sell your browsing history without your permission. Potentially, internet companies have been collecting data about you for months now and have a pretty good idea what you want. Then the other shoe dropped with the FCC's decision on Dec. 14 and the very same companies can now legally curb services to their competitors.
My initial fear when the FCC first considered putting the kibosh on net neutrality was people who disagree politically or morally with a particular entity could potentially be tracked and their first amendment rights be effectively banned from online communications. That's still a very real possibility, but the internet powers could potentially point the canon the other way. They know what we want and they have the power to make sure we only get it from them. I'd be willing to be many of us would pay each step of the way to get our daily online fix — even though I doubt many of us would admit we're that type of person.
But the internet knows just like The Shadow knows, and there's no hiding from either.
I doubt it's out of the question for a company to tailor its billing structure to match the wants of a particular service area — bringing popular content to a snail's pace through a process called data throttling. It's simple. For example, by slowing down streaming video for Iowans during Hawkeye games to the point it becomes a nuisance try, dish or cable channels become the more reliable option and operators are standing by to herd fans of the black and gold toward the company's own entertainment packages. On a side note, the FCC believes allowing such practices will promote innovation in the internet industry, though I've yet to see an explanation as to why or how.
And one particular concept keeps popping up in all the material on the FCC's recent decision. There seems to be a flimsy promise from internet providers that they will not throttle data to choke out their competitors. That would be all well and good but companies have already been accused of throttling before the FCC even rolled back the net neutrality laws. It got to the point where Netflix created an online tool to test if your subscription was being throttled. They created a website the mimics video streaming to see if an ISP actually allows online videos to flow at the rate customers are paying for. But again, in fairness to Mr. Pai, communications giants were throttling well before 2015's regulations. Comcast was blocking some file-sharing services in 2007 and AT&T was blocking Skype calls until 2009, according to Fox News. With that in mind, I doubt internet companies will refrain from throttling our data out of the goodness of their hearts in 2018.
Truthfully, some of us will roll with the new system and some of us will start adding random searches to our history just to stick it to the man. Either way, I don't foresee many of us just plain quitting the internet cold turkey. It's too engrained in our homes, in our jobs and in our society's infrastructure. Of course, a utility service so central to infrastructure would usually be protected by the FCC…but that's none of my business.