Economic Sense

While Colgate students enjoyed their winter break, a federal appeals court made a decision that threatens to change the Internet as we know it. However, this issue has escaped student consciousness, which at present is fixated on Colgate’s Artic temperatures. The ruling knocked down a regulation called net neutrality, which holds that Internet companies (Verizon, Time Warner, etc.) must charger users the same amount of money regardless of the amount of content they consume.

In a dystopian future that is quickly becoming reality, someone who is a big Netflix fan or likes to download games off their PlayStation over the internet would be forced to pay exorbitant fees, much like cell phone users who get burned for surfing the internet too much. This ruling would have an even more significant impact on schools such as Colgate that do not pay extra for what their students decide to watch or consume. Costs incurred by Colgate, other universities and other businesses would in turn be passed down onto consumers in the form of tuition, fees, and costs.

Some of the worst potential offenders include Verizon, Time Warner, AT&T, and Comcast. For now most of these Internet providers have committed to not changing their prices and creating outlandish fees but any student who has ever paid a cable bill should have little faith in them. For instance, Comcast already started penalizing users who use up too much data by slowing their download speeds. In other words, if you download too many movies, or even large PDFs off Moodle, Comcast will reduce your Internet connection to a crawl. In addition to slowing down data users’ Internet connections, Comcast is also bent on capping user downloads. For instance, one of Comcast’s more popular Internet plans limits users to potentially as few as 12 HD movies per month.

Students ought to feel outraged by the thought of Internet service charges that are more akin to a cell phone bill. These bills are also not justified by service costs either. According to Craig Moffet, an analyst at the Wall Street firm Bernstein Research, cable companies such as Time Warner and Comcast already earn nearly a 97% profit margin on their cable internet business. It is also evident that our cable bills have been hard at work as Comcast is preparing to built a 1.2 billion dollar, 1,121-foot tower in Philadelphia.

“Net neutrality” is not a sexy issue. And I would not bet that it is going to jump to the forefront of student consciousness any time soon. However, students owe it to themselves and their wallets to consider this issue when they head to the polls in 2014 and beyond.

Contact John Rapisardi at [email protected].