On December 14, net neutrality is going to have its greatest showdown. The FCC will be holding a vote to decide whether to keep the Internet free and open, and the consequences could be severe. If net neutrality dies, your Internet provider will win the right to slow down websites, apps, and online services—and even block them outright.
We don’t need to wonder how far they’re willing to go. Corporations around the world have already taken every chance they can to get around net neutrality laws, and they’ve shown us exactly what they’ll do if we let them.
10. Countless Companies Have Blocked Skype
When Skype first came out on the market, we got to see firsthand exactly what Internet providers do when nobody stops them. They’ll block the competition.
As far as they were concerned, Skype was a threat. Most Internet providers also sold phone plans, and Skype was giving people a cheaper way to make phone calls. They didn’t have any way of competing, so they just shut Skype down.
AT&T pressured Apple into blocking the Skype app on all iPhones, and they weren’t the only ones to do it. Companies all around the world followed suit, and most didn’t stop at Skype. They blocked every program you could use to make phone calls online altogether.
The complaint was that Skype was being unfair by “not operating on a level playing field”—or, in other words, by having a better product. There was a new product and they couldn’t compete, so they just blocked people from using it.
9. Comcast, Verizon, And MetroPCS Have All Slowed Down Netflix
In 2011, MetroPCS sent out an add boasting that anyone who signed up for their cheapest plan would get “YouTube access.” It sounded pretty positive, as long you didn’t read between the lines—because what they were really saying was that if you weren’t willing to pay for the expensive plan, every other video streaming site on the Internet was going to be blocked.
Their plan was a bit of glimpse into the future. For $10 more, they advertised, users could “preview and trial video content” but not actually watch it. And if they were willing to pay $20 more, they’d be permitted to access 18 different video streaming websites.
MetroPCS isn’t the only company to pitch a war against video services. Verizon has also been caught slowing down Netflix users. They didn’t make it impossible to watch a movie on Netflix, but they made sure Netflix was slow enough that no one would be able to waste their precious bandwidth by watching a video in HD.
Comcast has done it, too. That one’s especially troubling because they own television networks and have some pretty clear reasons to want to keep Netflix from succeeding. Comcast refused to stop slowing down their site until Netflix paid them money. In other words, Comcast blackmailed their competition by sabotaging them and refusing to stop until they paid them—and before net neutrality, all that was perfectly legal.