Now that the battle over net neutrality is over - except for the inevitable legal braying and squabbling - what difference is it going to make in your life?
With everything from cars to Crock-Pots connected to the Internet, high-speed Web access has become the water that nourishes all businesses. So it's not surprising that the Federal Communications Commission's decision this week to regulate broadband Internet service as a public utility (so-called Title II regulations) was preceded by a lot of spin and misinformation. Here's a truth-or-consequences rundown of the popular Title II myths and what it all means to you.
You'll now pay less for Internet service: False
The new rules steer clear of any price controls or regulations regarding how much or how little Internet service providers may charge consumers. What the ISPs are not allowed to do under the rules is charge Web sites and services special rates for faster access. In other words, a cable company can't make a (usually secret) deal to give Amazon faster access than Best Buy.
Since ISPs were eyeing such special deals as a potential source of new revenue, it's quite possible that they may attempt to raise prices on consumers instead.
The new rules will mean a big slowdown in service: False
It won't affect the overall speed of your Internet service. However, special deals to speed services like Netflix will be tightly regulated in the future, so that could mean giving precedence to such services would be restricted. In other words, it might seem like some services are slower because they are no longer allowed to have special access to the network.
On the other hand, new video services like 4K or Ultra HD programming are being offered not on cable or broadcast systems, but by streaming services like Netflix. As more Ultra HD TVs are sold, it could drive the demand for data-intensive Ultra HD programming, and, in turn, faster Internet access for consumers.
The new rules will limit competition: False
More than half of U.S. households currently have only choice when it comes to broadband Internet service (defined as download speeds of 25 Mbps or faster). That monopolistic situation in part inspired the new rules.
Some telecom companies have said regulations would dissuade them from investing more money in building out their systems. However, for 20 years the Internet has functioned under de facto rules identical to those voted on by the FCC, with investment remaining vigorous (some might say, over-heated). So there's not likely to be any change in the flow of capital, especially now that a level playing field is being established.
As companies see less revenue from TV subscriptions and voice calling, more money is likely to be pumped into Internet service since that will be a growing source of revenue going forward. Furthermore, companies not traditionally associated with telecommunications continue to enter the market, such as Google. Google Fiber service in Austin, Texas, for example, is about seven times faster than other Internet services and includes television channels and online storage - all for about $30 a month less than traditional cable. As new wireless services appear, the competition will become more intense.
To further encourage competition, part of the new FCC rules will stop states from enacting laws that prevent towns and cities from offering their own high-speed services.
My cellphone service will be cheaper: False
Cellphone service for voice calls already came under the Title II regulations, which treat such communications services as a utility. The new classification is for the wireless data portion of those services - basically wireless Internet access - to be regarded the same way. There's already more competition in wireless services because in most major markets consumers have the choice between three or four carriers.
The demand for more high-speed wireless service is expected to outstrip supply, so prices aren't likely to come down soon. Millennials often forego big-screen TVs today, opting instead to watch movies and TV shows on mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. So, for the foreseeable future, you'll still have to monitor your family's phone usage.