Scenario: Un-Neutral Selection
Just like on any other Tuesday, Tina walked into her office and found her boss reclining in his chair with coffee and a box of food. Today it was a mug of PJ’s cold brew, because it was never too cold for iced coffee in New Orleans, and a half dozen heavily frosted cupcakes.
“Good morning, Tina,” Christian Moynahan said, gesturing toward the box. “Breakfast?”
“I’m on a diet,” Tina answered, settling into a chair. “What’s new today?”
“You’re on a diet?” Christian asked. “Does that mean my AI is having body image issues? Should I be worried?”
“A health-food diet. I understand if the concept is foreign to you,” Tina replied, eyeing the cupcakes. “I see you sent me the daily upload, but I’m having trouble accessing it. Is there a problem with the wifi?”
Christian took a sip of coffee. “Are you using our intranet or an outside network?”
Tina paused while she checked her connection. “Oh, I have it now. I was on an external LTE network.”
“That would explain it,” Christian said. “Moynacorp hasn’t paid the ransoms this month, so the ISPs are throttling our services.”
“Oh,” Tina said. “Wait, what about Hortical? They said they wouldn’t force small businesses to pay ransoms for faster data speeds.”
“Oh, they don’t,” Christian said breezily. “They throttle us because I made a comment in support of gay marriage a couple of weeks ago.”
“Hmm.” Tina thought for a moment. “What about AB&C? They said they support net neutrality and wouldn’t throttle any services.”
“They did say that,” Christian said. “But that doesn’t stop them from speeding up websites that they like and leaving the rest of us on suboptimal performance. Which isn’t exactly neutral, but hey, money is power, right?”
“Ugh.” Tina folded her arms. Then she sat up again, buoyed by inspiration. “Wait, what about Claira? They’re a small startup, just like us. They wouldn’t make us pay a ransom or throttle our traffic due to politics or anything else, right?”
There was a bit of wistfulness to Christian’s smile. “They wouldn’t if they didn’t have to. But their competitors, like AB&C and Hortical, charge them their own ransom just to keep from being shut out of the telecom industry. But Claira is too small to absorb the ransom, so they pass it on to us and their other customers in the form of higher fees. In turn, Moynacorp couldn’t absorb their higher rates, so we use a different ISP.”
“Then how does anyone expect Claira to survive?” Tina asked, aghast.
“No one in telecom cares because they’re just a small-fry competitor. No one in government cares because they don’t have lobbying power and can’t grease palms.” Christian shrugged behind his coffee.
“And how is any of that okay?” Tina demanded.
“I didn’t say it was,” Christian answered patiently. “But until more folks start speaking up, this is the new normal.”
Tina slouched. “That’s kinda depressing, Christian.”
“I know it. Welcome to life in the slow lane.” Christian nudged the box of baked goods across the desk. “How are you feeling about these cupcakes now?”
“No wonder you’re stuffing yourself to an early grave,” Tina remarked, snatching up a cupcake.
“Yes. Net neutrality is only the beginning of the digital trials we’re going to face,” Christian said. “But for now, let’s take them one at a time.”
This story is fictional, but the details are real. The FCC will vote to end net neutrality on December 14. We have to make it known that as consumers, we want our freedoms to remain protected. Reach out to your representatives in Congress now!