For an increasing number of Americans, access to high-speed Internet has become an essential part of our lives. We do work, email friends, find restaurants, watch videos and movies, and check the weather. And the Internet is increasingly used for important services, like video medical consults and online education, and is relied upon by businesses for critical operations.
Under a recent court decision, Internet service providers, primarily cable companies, aren't required to treat all websites equally. They can make deals to provide faster service to some, or slow down sites that refuse to pay them extra fees. Law professor Susan Crawford says you may be experiencing the effects of this — without realizing it.
Why, for example, do you have to wait for YouTube videos to buffer? Crawford explains: "You may think it's the YouTube application. You may think there is something wrong with your computer. It's probably the network provider making life unpleasant for YouTube because YouTube has refused to pay in order to cross its wires to reach you. And we'll be seeing much more of that kind of activity in the future."
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