?$€ Economic Sense ?$€ The Latest Threat to the Internet

John Rapisdardi

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 charge users

the same amount of money regardless of the amount of content they consume.

In a dystopian future that is quickly becoming reality, anyone who is a big

Netflix fan or likes to download games off his/her 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 down 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 percent 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 build a $1.2 billion, 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.