The Open Internet is Under Attack

Source: Media Matters

 

The future of the world’s online experiences may change forever after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed Net Neutrality with a vote of 3-2. [1] Net neutrality, sometimes referred as “open internet” is the “principle that ISPs [internet service providers] treat all content equally and not give preference to some digital content providers”. Net neutrality prevents big broadband internet providers from slowing down, blocking, or charging for providing content from specific hosts — allowing everyone to access any information they want. [2]

The term net neutrality has come into the news cycle fairly quickly, but the ideas behind open internet have been around since the creation of the internet. In 1996, the Telecommunications Act was revised and included the addition of the internet, making it subject to government regulation. In 2015, the FCC passed formal net neutrality regulations. The internet would be protected as public utility under Title II, preventing discrimination of content provided by ISPs [3]. However, these regulations have been unwound by the current FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, who spearheaded the decision and has been supported by the Trump administration. [1] The fight for net neutrality is important because free internet access to all sites allows marginalized communities to organize and get information when television media is an unreliable source of news. Without open internet, small businesses and entrepreneurs who survive through advertising and accessibility would be crushed.

The vendetta here is between those who support free and equal access vs. deregulation. I have outlined the arguments for and against net neutrality regulations below:

Pro-Net Neutrality

  1. Open internet is a freedom that should be provided in today’s modern world. It is thought of public utility and would be available for everyone regardless of income, race, disability, etc. [3]
  2. In favor of freedom of press, since it allows equal access to sites without the threat of a broadband provider slowing down or a blocking site completely.
  3. Allows for small businesses and entrepreneurs to thrive and have same the opportunity at job growth since any business could technically be visible to all consumers.
  4. Freedom of speech can be in danger if internet service providers neglect to protect or provide perspective from marginalized voices. [4]

Anti-Net Neutrality

  1. Deregulation gives incentive for companies to provide even more services to consumers, like in underserved areas. [1]
  2. Fosters competition among big internet provider companies by allowing companies to foster new services and deals — however, this can shift costs to consumers, further limiting internet accessibility to lower income folks. [1]
  3. Internet worked fine without net neutrality in past. However, this argument still neglects the fact that while net neutrality was not legally protected, it has always been considered, recommended, and encouraged throughout the internet’s usage.  [5] [3]
  4. Puts companies back in charge of their growth unregulated by the government. [5]

It is unclear what repealing net neutrality will entail, and whether critics’ worst fears of inaccessibility will come true. Those in favor of deregulation for ISPs, like big cable and internet providers, claim that this decision will not affect the public’s internet experience. However, anti-net neutrality supporters have clear benefits to the decision, and past ties that may still exist. Chairman Pai, a former Verizon attorney himself, has alsolifted media ownership limits, eased caps on how much broadband providers can charge business customers and cut back on a low-income broadband program that was slated to be expanded to nationwide carriers” in less than a year [1].

In response, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has stated that he intends to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) in order to overturn the FCC’s decision. The CRA does not need a majority in the House and Senate to repeal rulings, and Schumer wants to use it to the Democrats’ advantage in bringing back Obama-era regulations. There is also hope that some Republicans will be able to give support across the aisle, no matter how little. [6].

The solution to this dilemma should be clear: net neutrality benefits the majority of the world and ensures widespread accessibility to the internet. The fact that there is even a possibility for businesses with low resources to be wiped out completely is a concern. Internet should be thought of public utility because everyone needs to use it and be able to access to work, go to school, communicate with others, and live a modern life. It has become a necessity and should be protected as such.

 

Take Action
1. Watch this informational video about the importance of net neutrality and this recent FCC decision: https://youtu.be/HqXKEgTYZBQ

  1. Take the time to write a letter to congress using this link: https://www.battleforthenet.com. It is quick and easy and already has a template laid out for you!
  2. Text BATTLE to 384-387 to send an additional message to Congress.

 

Citations:

  1. (n.d.). Retrieved December 14, 2017, from https://www.sutori.com/story/the-history-of-net-neutrality-in-the-u-s
  2. Hathaway, J., & Haskins, J. (2017, December 17). Ending net neutrality will save the internet, not destroy it. Retrieved December 20, 2017, from http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/12/16/ending-net-neutrality-will-save-internet-not-destroy-it.html
  3. Jacobson, L. (n.d.). What is net neutrality? Retrieved December 13, 2017, from http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/net-neutrality/story?id=48596615
  4. Kang, C. (2017, December 14). F.C.C. Repeals Net Neutrality Rules. Retrieved December 12, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/14/technology/net-neutrality-repeal-vote.html
  5. Neidig, H. (2017, December 15). Schumer promises a Senate vote on overturning FCC’s net neutrality repeal. Retrieved December 20, 2017, from http://thehill.com/policy/technology/365169-schumer-promises-a-senate-vote-on-overturning-fccs-net-neutrality-repeal

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Cassandra Morales

Cassandra Morales

Policy Corner Writer at PVNN Inc.
Cassandra Morales is a Political Science and Anthropology student at Wellesley College. In addition to being a Policy Corner Writer for PVNN, she dedicates her time working with the largest Latinx-run organization at Wellesley - MEZCLA - as Political Action Chair. As a daughter of immigrants and a first-generation college student, she has strong ambitions to fight for social equality and the rights of marginalized communities. She considers herself socially and fiscally liberal, with a willingness to debate with an open-mind. As a writer, she is mostly focused on health care, race relations, and civil rights.
Cassandra Morales

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