If you haven't been paying attention to the topic of Net Neutrality, now is the time to jump on the bandwagon. To save the long explanation, take a quick visit to Battle for the Net for more info on what exactly is going on and how to add your name to the growing list of independents everywhere in support of Net Neutrality. To see the long list of companies valiantly taking this stand in support of Net Neutrality, check out their post. Just to name a few of these companies, and to deliver the point via "TLDR": Amazon, Etsy, KickStarter, Netflix, Twitter, Vimeo, Reddit, DeviantArt, Discord, Dropbox, imgur, Newgrounds, Patreon, Pinterest, Slashdot, Soundcloud, Spotify, stackoverflow, ThinkGeek, Tumblr, Yelp, the list goes on... and on. Another great resource for details comes in the first three minutes and twenty-seven seconds of the Wednesday, July 12th episode of the Philip DeFranco show. At its core, the repeal of our current Net Neutrality would allow ISP's to regulate the speed at which we all access websites. This is not a regulation of the internet speeds which you pay for at your home, it's regulating the speeds at which certain websites can actually respond to your requests for information, via an auction block.
This is Happening Now
The FCC has announced they are open to receive comments from the public until Monday, July 17th. Tuesday, July 18th will be too late.
What Does This Have to do With Photographers Everywhere?
I'm glad you asked! The following example is entirely based on the potential outcome of our Net Neutrality regulations becoming repealed, this is an effort to educate the creative community on it's impact, should this ruling strip us of said Net Neutrality.
I'll skip the big points of impact for larger companies like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, etc. who could end up charging more of their consumers and paying less to their creators. Let's jump straight to the medium-sized and little guys. The big picture here is that the trickle-down could affect news sources (i.e. Fstoppers, CanonRumors, NikonRumors, DPReview, FlashHavoc, etc.) and search engines of all sizes. How info is accessed and located by most people is filtered through a variety of outlets. Most people get to a website from somewhere else, like another website. If you can pay to have your content delivered faster, control over content is more likely to follow. It's not just cable programming, it would open up the potential for ISP's to throttle everything, only allowing those domains who pay a fast bandwidth type fee (or tax) to receive the full bandwidth capacity for their sites. The breadth of these implications are actually quite large; limitless, I'd say.
My Mind Races With Possibilities
The take away here should not be that some photography blogs would be affected, it's that all creatives would be affected.
How would these new regulations affect the little guy? Right now you have the option to use your favorite search engine to find all the education you want, on any creative topic you want. You can create your own classroom at your own pace with your own style because the internet is open and we have Net Neutrality. By definition, it is neutral. If Net Neutrality is repealed, ISP's would have the legal right to ransom the speed at which your favorite sites are able to deliver said content. This would be true to such an extent that it could be rendered pointless to even try with some sites. This can be best viewed in an actual real-world example that has already transpired between major ISP Comcast and major video streaming service Netflix. Here is a graph accompanied by a quote from John Oliver's segment on the topic.
This graph shows Netflix download speeds on various providers. That black line plummeting downwards was their speed on Comcast during the negotiation. See if you can guess when Netflix agreed to Comcast demands.
I'll give you a hint, it's right there.
While Netflix isn't directly a Photography service, Netflix does contain several Photography documentaries as well as creative series like Abstract and Tales By Light, which I have sincerely enjoyed. The idea that I could have been deprived of those in any way simply because a gargantuan ISP wanted to line their pockets that much more makes me, quite frankly, sick.
*Disclaimer: The following paragraph is the most hypothetical of this article. It is designed this way to more clearly convey the message.
Let's take this very website for example. If any ISP wanted Fstoppers to fork over an arbitrary amount of money just so that we could be allowed to deliver reasonably speedy content to our readers— or worse, be allowed to deliver ANY content to ANY particular geographic area, this could mean you wouldn't receive said content. You could actually have this website completely blocked in your area, all just depending on your ISP. That goes for anyone, at all. "Are you looking for a Wedding Photographer in the area? Well since you have AT&T supplied internet, you get to see these photographers in your area. Your friend only five minutes down the road is getting married at the same time and found a great photographer who she thinks you'd love? Tough luck. That photographer didn't pay to be seen by your ISP. Turns out, your friend has Comcast internet and that Photographer could only afford to push their site on one ISP this quarter. You could always go check them out using the internet at your local coffee shop... wait, nope... that shop's ISP is also AT&T just like yours, and you need Comcast internet to find that photographer.
Ok I'm stretching, but you get the point, right? We're not only facing the potential to lose our internet freedom but also our businesses. This is HUGE. If WordPress or Drupal or Blogger— or think smaller, Pixieset, 17Hats, Táve, Later, Shootq, Shootproof, Photoshelter, Fstoppers, SLRLounge, DPReview, etc. haven't paid their fast bandwidth tax; now any links back to their sites are throttled. The Photography community comes to a screeching halt; education, photo delivery, CRM, blogs, you name it. So now subsequently the amount of time it takes to upload 1,000 images to Pixieset just multiplied for the worse. In turn, client deliverables just took two steps backwards because a client's ISP won't let a photographer's image hosting service have that much bandwidth unless they pay up.
Google's algorithms already prioritize sites that run more efficiently. If Net Neutrality goes away, search engine results will begin to become prioritized by those who have the cash to ride in the fast lane. This isn't Google, Yahoo, Bing, or Yelp taking payment for rankings— this is rankings changing based on those who can afford the increased distribution costs.
Three Possible Outcomes if Net Neutrality Crumbles
1. Our favorite news sources, education blogs, photo hosting services, CRM's, and much more are all forced to relay the increased cost of operation down to us, the consumers. Cost goes up, but life goes on.
2. Our favorite sites don't pay up and they begin to get lost in the wash.
3. We don't let it happen. We fight to keep Net Neutrality and keep the dream alive that anyone can learn a craft on their own and build a business from scratch without having to pay a premium for a leg-up on the competition.
Now, this is a pretty heavy-handed approach, I admit. I do want hear if you have a difference in opinion though. Do you think Net Neutrality is this important? Are you already, or are you going to now get involved? For which side do you advocate? I am genuinely curious to hear another side of this argument, especially from fellow creatives.