Here’s How Net Neutrality Could Affect Your Favorite Food Sites

published Dec 15, 2017
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(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

In the past several months, I have contacted my senators and representatives so often that even Resistbot has to be like “You again? Really?” And, if I develop some kind of thumb arthritis over the weekend, it could be from all the times I’ve texted the words “net neutrality” this month.

I’m apprehensive and afraid of what could happen after the FCC voted to overturn the regulations ensuring net neutrality. What does that mean? And how could it affect our ability to do some of our favorite things, like watching cooking shows online, searching for recipes, or following semi-celeb food bloggers?

First, what does (or did) net neutrality do? Basically, it required internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all traffic on the internet equally. Your ISP couldn’t prevent you from accessing the websites or using the online services that you wanted to use and they couldn’t charge for services that have previously been free (like watching streaming videos). Those regulations also meant they couldn’t prioritize one site over another or intentionally slow down your internet access, a process called “throttling.”

There is still a lot of uncertainty about what shape the un-neutral internet will take — the regulations won’t go into effect for months and several states have already promised legal action — but many analysts believe that either there will be “fast lanes and slow lanes” for content based on your ISP’s own preferences or that internet access will start to be bundled, much like your cable package. (Remember when we all had cable? We were so young then.)

There is also concern that big corporations like AT&T, Comcast, or Verizon could cut deals to prioritize their partners over other sites; for example, a Comcast property might start to produce its own online cooking shows and block its users from accessing Food Network — or just make those videos so slow to load that you’d just give up.

“There are going to be fast lanes and slow lanes,” telecom analyst Gigi Sohn told Rolling Stone. “As a consumer, that means some of your favorite websites are going to load more slowly, and it also may mean some of your favorite content goes away because the provider just can’t pay the fee [for the ‘fast lane’].”

And Money suggests that ISPs could offer bundled content: If you stream a lot of video, you might have to purchase an additional video package, or if you’re a social media junkie, you’d have to buy another add-on. And if you want everything — you know, the way things are right now — then you’d pay a premium price.

Would you still listen to The Dinner Party Download or frantically refresh MasterChefMom’s Instagram feed if you had to spend more every month to do it? Would you read Nom Nom Paleo or Wood and Spoon (or Kitchn!) if it took one billion minutes to load each post? Would those sites even exist if net neutrality had been yanked several years ago?

All of this is still up in the air. In the meantime, give your favorite blogs and podcasts a virtual hug (or chip in a buck or two to their Patreons) and maybe print out a few of those recipes you’ve bookmarked. You know, just in case.