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Viewpoint: Net Neutrality

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Bigger issue than Right to Repair?

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Imagine that you are logging onto your usual websites for repair and parts information to fix a vehicle. OEM vehicle repair websites and other resources are crawling along or do not even work at all. When you try to access your parts supplier website, it does not come up or you are redirected to a different parts supplier’s website.

It sounds like a nightmare, but it is one that might come true if some telecommunication companies get their way like they did when the U.S. House of Representatives voted down the Net Neutrality Amendment by a vote of 269 to 152 last month. The amendment was written to ensure that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide uncensored access to the entire internet to all of its subscribers.

For you, a subscriber and small business owner, it means that an ISP can control the pipe that delivers information to you through two methods.

First, if a website does not pay your ISP to use their internet pipeline, it has a right to either reduce the bandwidth, block the information or even redirect you to another website that has paid them. Second, if you want full access to the internet, it could cost you a lot more.

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Why?
In the late 1980s, telecommunication companies made a major investment laying fiber-optic cables and high-speed data networks. The cables can carry a huge amount of information at faster speeds than their copper cable predecessors. The cables were designed to carry not only the internet, but voice communications as well.

Just as they were going to start reaping the fruits of their labors, the market changed dramatically. In the late 1990s, the market saw the rise of the cell phones and cheaper rates from ISP competition.

Today, many people are abandoning their land-line phones for cell phones and internet-based phone service. Also, many local cable companies are offering internet services that compete with Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL) and other dial-up services. Not to mention, many cities are looking to provide WiFi for all of their residents at no charge.

For the telecommunication companies this has resulted in a falling return on investment for their fiber optic cables underground. They have tried to recover their investment costs by introducing fees on our phone bills like “universal cost recovery” and other silly charges. But, they have now realized that these charges are driving people and businesses to cell phones and internet-based phone services like Vonage and Skype.

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Confronted with dwindling profits and trying to pay for the fiber optic lines, the telecommunications giants are planning to charge tolls on the information super highway. They look at it as selling access to you, the subscriber, or trying to sell you different levels of access.

According to a recent study by BRAKE & FRONT END, 66 percent of shops have high-speed internet connections. Shops use their internet connections for ordering parts and accessing repair information. By allowing the telecommunication companies to restrict access, charge more or even divert shops to websites they do not want to access, it will hurt the economy as a whole.

This issue is bigger than Right to Repair because it threatens to increase costs for shops and information providers. Also, it even threatens to interrupt the flow of OEM repair information to some shops. This is not good for the future of the aftermarket. For more information or to send a letter to your senator, visit www.SavetheInternet.com.

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