In 1989 Sir Tim Berners Lee invented the world wide web and, rather than seeing it as a way to make money, he gave his invention to the world. Although that was only 38 years ago, the web has become such a part of everyday life, it is hard to imagine what we did without it.
We find our information and news on the web. We get our entertainment on the web. We shop on the web. We chat with friends on the web. We bank on the web. We relate to government and other key organisations via the web. We play games on the web. The list goes on and on.
But could we find that our internet comes in payment packages in the future?
- You want to watch films and videos online? You will need the premium-priced film and video package.
- You want news online? That’ll be part of the ‘reasonably-priced’ news package.
- You want games? The game package is what you need.
- You want social media? Well, that’s a very reasonable add on to the subscription package.
In the USA, the FCC’s u-turn on ‘net neutrality’ could be just the trigger to set that change in motion.
Up until now the rather obscurely-named ‘net neutrality’ has been our reassurance that we will have a level playing field. Access to all of the internet will be made available at equal speed and bandwidth, with no additional charges for accessing particular parts of the internet (although, of course, there can be charges on individual sites).
What happens in the USA is bound to affect us on this side of the Atlantic, with so many of the internet’s major players based there.
In addition, on this side of the Atlantic, Theresa May has signalled her intention to control the internet.
Few would argue against controls to stop terrorists using the internet for their evil purpose. But, once you introduce controls, it is tempting for government and authorities to exercise their new-found powers to control what we do online.
In Britain we are currently governed by the EU Regulation on Open Internet Access. But we all know there are big changes coming that will potentially remove that from our law.
Put these moves together and it is quite easy to see how the future of our internet could be very different.
It would make sense for your internet provider to prioritise the content that they wanted you to see. That could mean, not only making it most prominent, but providing faster, better connections to favoured websites and internet resources.
On the other hand it is easy to see how this could also make other sites less prominent. It could even hide or block them.
It surely would not be long before your provider developed this into premium packages, rather like Sky and other television companies. You can easily envisage news packages, entertainment packages, games packages, movie packages.
Can’t you just imagine the internet providers delight at opening up these revenue streams for their business?
Suddenly the boring words ’net neutrality’ take on much greater significance.