The internet as we know it may be coming to an end

-Dylan Desrosiers

In 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed the Net Neutrality act.

Net Neutrality requires that Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) must treat all internet traffic equally, and not block, slow down, or change differently for specific online content.

Up until recently, the internet has stayed largely the same as before the act was repealed, and Internet Service Providers had not taken any action with their new freedoms–that is, until now. 

In November 2020, Comcast / xFinity announced a monthly data limit and new pricing structure, making Comcast the first company to do anything with their new liberties.

The new data limit is being imposed on 41 states in the US, including all of New England, according to a list published on the xFinity website. The new restrictions go into effect on January 1, 2021.

With Net Neutrality being overturned, it gives ISP’s a lot of freedom.

Customers could be charged differently based on the amount of data they use and what it is used for. For example, ISP’s could charge more for video-streaming services like Netflix, which demands more data, versus surfing the web.

At the same time, ISP’s can create a billing structure that favors some companies and hurts others. For example, if Comcast wanted to push use of their proprietary video streaming service, they can charge less for that service, and charge more for all other services, like Netflix and Disney Plus, hurting the competition and getting more people to buy into their services.

ISP’s essentially have complete and total control over the internet now, and the possibilities are endless for what they can do with it and how they can make more money.

Jack Callahan, a senior at NAHS, said, “It’s really scary to think that our ISP has that much control over us. Nobody wants to pay the higher prices, but sadly we don’t have much say or control in the situation.”

Comcast’s new plan imposes a monthly data cap of 1.2TB. Any overages will incur additional charges per 50 GB, with a maximum overage fee cap at $100. Or you can choose to upgrade to their new unlimited data plan.

While 1.2 TB might seem like a lot of data, most people would be surprised to know that they easily use hundreds of gigabytes of data in a month, especially with at-home work and school right now. The data adds up quickly, especially due to video streaming.

However, as Rob Pegoraro said in an article on Comcast’s new data cap on fastcompany.com, “The threshold that Comcast will start enforcing next year on subscribers in the northeast does, indeed, allow for a lot of online life before getting socked by surcharges.”

Pegoraro also mentioned that Comcast claims that 95% of its customers do not reach that limit.

However, it’s important to not lose sight of the fact that Comcast is only testing the waters right now. How much pushback will they get? Will it cause widespread problems? Are people willing to put up with it?

If xFinity’s new data cap goes to plan, Comcast and other ISP’s could start imposing more hefty restrictions, which is bad news for the consumer.

Most people shouldn’t have to panic about the 1.2 TB data restrictions, but they should pay attention in the coming months and years as more and more companies “test the waters” and try adding in restrictions.

Many people are unaware of how much data they use in a month, so Comcast is allowing a “complimentary credit” through January, February, and March for any data overages.

If you are a Comcast / xFinity customer, you can learn more about the new data usage restrictions here, on the xFinity website.

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