Don’t Remain Neutral on Net Neutrality

The Free Internet Is In Jeopardy


Net neutrality is up for a vote (courtesy of the American Civil Liberties Union).

Samantha Street, Staff Writer

Net neutrality is “the principle, or requirement that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should or must treat all Internet data as the same regardless of its kind, source, or destination” (Merriam Webster). This means that ISPs like AT&T and Verizon cannot control the speed that different types of content are available or limit access to them entirely. This could allow the restriction of websites, redirection to websites, and slowing down of context the ISP does not like. The loss of net neutrality could also lead to issues regarding paid prioritization. This would mean companies could pay ISPs for their content to be favored or to use a “fast lane” therefore putting other content in the “slow lane.” This is concerning because the free Internet is essential to our society. Citizens must have equal access to all information through the Internet. A country in which the flow of information is restricted by those in power struggles to be a democracy. With all the cries of “fake news” as of late, these ISPs could redirect consumers away from what they deem “fake news” or make them pay more for access to it. The Internet must be an equal playing field in which all voices can be heard, not hidden behind paywalls put in place by those who want to silence them for their own benefit. Understanding net neutrality and the importance of it is vital.

If companies are not bound by net neutrality they may use their power to profit. Companies have said that the repeal of net neutrality will not affect their policies. Why are they pushing so hard for it if it won’t affect them? These companies have shown over and over again that if given the chance they will profit at the detriment of their consumers. For instance, in 2011 AT&T attempted to restrict the use of FaceTime on customers’ iPhones because it competed with their own application. The FCC declared that this was in violation of Internet access rules (Washington Post). In 2007, Comcast was heavily attacked for supposedly restricting users’ file sharing capabilities (Electronic Frontier Foundation). Comcast’s CEO Dave Watson has stated, “Comcast does not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content” (Comcast). After recent developments, Comcast has changed its’ net neutrality commitment, removing a portion about paid prioritization (Ars Technica).  This does not seem to be accurate because it is obvious that Comcast would benefit from doing those things and there is evidence to suggest that they have discriminated against content in the past. It is important to be skeptical of these companies supposed support of net neutrality.

The Federal Communications Committee (FCC) is in charge of the laws regarding the Internet. The FCC is a group currently made up of three Republicans and two Democrats: Mignon Clyburn, Michael O’Reilly, Brendan Carr, Jessica Rosenworcel, and led by Chairman Ajit Pai. Pai has been very vocal about his desire to repeal the net neutrality rules. Pai formerly worked for Verizon as a lawyer which has led to skepticism as to his motives as FCC Chairman. He has submitted a proposal to repeal net neutrality. Pai wants to restore “light touch” regulation to the industry and ISPs have expressed their approval of this (Washington Post). Meanwhile, small businesses and larger ones have pushed hard for the regulations to remain in place. On Cyber Monday, more than 200 small start-ups from across the country signed this letter addressed to Pai urging him to keep the regulations in place for their sake. They stated that “our current net neutrality rules support innovation and give all businesses the opportunity to compete equally for consumers.” Since Trump’s administration has repeatedly expressed support for small businesses it seems strange that the FCC would consider repealing a policy that helps small start-ups.

This issue has not received very much media coverage, but there are people speaking up. Battle for the Net is leading efforts to call Congresspeople and protests outside Verizon stores across the country. These protests will occur on December 7 at the Verizon stores on Miller Lane, at the Dayton Mall, and in Beavercreek. Members of the FCC can be contacted through the FCC website. The FCC will vote on the proposal on December 14.

Being aware of the impacts of the proposal to repeal net neutrality is important, but action is more important. The effects of this would be toxic to small businesses and for freedom of the press. We cannot allow our Internet access to be restricted by ISPs.