What if Verizon succeeds in killing the Internet?

Poor Verizon, its free speech is being violated by laws and competition. Won't someone think of the children?

I've posted countless essays over the years on the importance of Net neutrality and how big ISPs are trying to turn the Internet into a pay-per-view system, rather than the open-access system it was always intended to be. I've written open letters to federal legislators; remarked on the various games being played by AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and the like; and cheered Google Fiber for demonstrating that the big ISPs are full of nonsense when they claim their backs are against the wall in terms of broadband speeds and reach.

And now, Verizon is claiming it has free speech rights to limit and block content flowing from the Internet to its customers. That stance is so ridiculous that the lawyers responsible for cooking up that one should either be canonized or jettisoned into space. I'm not sure which.

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However, this is happening. Verizon is making a big push to begin actively blocking content and competition from its network. This is a bald-faced attack on the Internet in general. It's abhorrent.

But what happens if Verizon wins? What happens if Verizon establishes a precedent for censorship?

Many in the free-market camp will say that customers unhappy with Verizon's service can simply take their computers and go to another provider. Ah, if it were only that simple. If there were any kind of actual competition in broadband service in the United States, we wouldn't be in this position to begin with. The market would take care of these kinds of transgressions naturally.

However, this is not the case, and the vast number of markets that have no real competition will be faced with a choice between a neutered Internet and no Internet at all. "But you can go wireless!" they say. Sure, for vastly overcharged subscriptions and minuscule data plans. Oh, and Verizon is in that market too.

Worst-case scenario

In essence, if Verizon has its way, it will follow its own lead in onerous pricing on low-bandwidth wireless plans and will map that onerous pricing directly to the wired world. If you think that $20-per-month 1GB data plan on your iPad is bad, wait until it's $80 a month for 2GB via your DSL circuit. Oh, and Verizon is going to go ahead and block Netflix and YouTube unless you pony up another $20 a month. Coming close to your limit? Sorry, no more Internet for you until next month, or you can pay $20 per gigabyte to get you through.

To put this in simple terms, if you upgraded to iOS 7 the other day, you ate through roughly 720MB of data. Throw in a few Windows or OS X updates, and poof goes your data for the month. Hey, at least you can always access Verizon's site to view your usage and pay through the nose so that you can answer email and do your online banking. But even if you buy extra bandwidth for the month, you can't access your favorite news site or forum, because Verizon has decided you shouldn't. Huzzah.

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