Good news and bad news

Age of Geek Column: By now, if you use the internet at all, you've probably heard about net neutrality.

For those that need a refresher, net neutrality is the idea that all the data zipping around the internet should be treated equally when it comes to how fast or slow it travels from a web host to your house. Whether it's a heavy bandwidth usage site like Netflix or your own personal website where you display amusing photos of your cat, all the data runs through the internet at the same speed.

But it doesn't have to. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have the technology to throttle certain websites on a whim. In the past, Comcast used this ability to slow down Netflix to their customers until Netflix paid out a hefty ransom. Remember that when your monthly rate for Netflix goes up at the end of the year.

In other nations, where there aren't net neutrality protections, internet providers instead target their consumers directly, packaging together access to sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pintrist for additional monthly charges.

What's that? You only use two of those web services? Too bad. American ISPs are chomping at the bit to bring the cable package model to the internet, forcing you to pay extra to buy bundles of web services just to get access to the handful you actually want.

Meanwhile, if you own or operate a website, net neutrality keeps ISPs from strong arming extra money out of you to stay competitive. "Nice website you've got here, sure would be a shame if nobody on our network could access it."

The good news: Net neutrality was made law in 2015 when the FCC reclassified the internet under Title 2 regulations, granting them broad regulatory power that allows them to keep ISPs from abusing their power over the internet.

The bad news: It's not 2015 anymore. With a new administration came a new FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, a hardline opponent of net neutrality. Pai has wasted no time working to dismantle net neutrality protections and on Thursday the FCC will vote to roll back that Title 2 classification.

The good news: Net neutrality isn't going down without a fight. In asking for public feedback, the FCC has been bombarded with tens of millions of comments from people. Among the unique comments submitted, nearly all of them oppose getting rid of net neutrality.

The bad news: While the overwhelming majority of unique responses oppose the FCC's dismantling of net neutrality, hundreds of thousands of suspiciously identical comments against net neutrality also appeared. Suspicious not just because of their mass produced nature, but because the supposed commenters themselves don't recall making the comments.

The good news: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is on the case. Because some of these anti-net neutrality comments were made using the names of real people without their knowledge the attorney general is investigating where they came from as it essentially constitutes a mass case of identity theft.

The bad news: The FCC isn't cooperating, denying the attorney general's request to see the log information about the comments.

The good news: The tainted comments won't have any impact on the FCC's decision.

The bad news: Because none of the comments will. Pai has already declared that the FCC isn't making policy decisions based on public feedback so even though the people have clearly spoken, Chairman Pai isn't listening. In short, this is happening and no amount of complaining is going to stop it.

The good news: Just because the FCC rolls back Title 2 classification doesn't mean ISPs have to take advantage of their newfound ability to sell the internet piecemeal.

The bad news: They will. They absolutely will. On the same day that the FCC announced their plans to roll back Title 2 classification, Comcast quietly removed their "pledge" to not implement paid prioritization practices. I guess it's a lot harder to keep a pledge to not do something once that something stops being illegal. Not that we should have expected anything differently. ISPs like Comcast are among the most hated companies in the world because their oligopoly gives them carte blanche to be as terrible as legally possible without suffering any real consequence.

The good news: Even if the FCC does abdicate their responsibility to protect Americans from getting milked for all they're worth by ISPs, there's still the Federal Trade Commission. Once the internet is reclassified back to Title 1, the FTC will have jurisdiction over ISP business practices.

The bad news: The FTC isn't any more likely to protect consumers from telecom giants than the FCC is. Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen has come out in support of the FCC's proposal, parroting the same nonsense that rolling back net neutrality will spur competition and that mobile internet is a sufficient substitute for wired broadband access.

The worse news: Even if the FTC were inclined to protect American internet consumers from telecoms, they aren't equipped to do it anyway. FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny wrote last week that they lack the technical expertise to detect and prosecute discriminatory conduct and are "being set up to fail."

The good news: The one thing that might keep ISPs in line is uncertainty. Barring a miracle, net neutrality will all but certainly be repealed this week, but what can be undone can be done again. ISPs probably won't go all-in until they're sure net neutrality is gone forever. The battle to save net neutrality was lost last November. The battle to restore it begins now.

Travis Fischer is a news writer for Mid-America Publishing and doesn't want Mediacom to decide what resolution he plays YouTube at.