By: Michael Gaudiosi
You have probably heard about the FCC’s (Federal Communications Commision) decision to repeal the 2015 Net Neutrality bill put into place by former president Barack Obama. The repeal has been the talk of the internet since Ajit Pai became chairman in January of 2017. YouTubers and other social media “celebrities” have deemed the decision as “the end of the internet as we know it” or they have said users will have to pay $20 a month to access to YouTube or Instagram. While I do think this is a serious topic that needs to be discussed, spreading these false statements is a bit radical and provides no solution to the current situation.
Before we can really delve into the problem at hand we need to define Net Neutrality and analyze its origin, usage and possibly its demise. Net Neutrality is defined as the principle that ISPs (internet service providers) must treat all data on the internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. Basically, this means that a provider such as AT&T cannot slow down a user's connection to a website such as YouTube, just because they are competitors and would make more money.
Net Neutrality has been a part of telecommunications since the 1980s; the government claims that phone networks and telegrams were common carriers and could not give preferential treatment. The term itself is new but the underlying idea it represents is not. The internet was first legal for public use in the late eighties but it was not viewed as a public utility, such as telecommunications, so no regulations were set by the FCC on how ISPs could allow access to websites.
By the early 2000s the internet had become common in most households and talk of neutrality was on the rise. People discussed free online trade and education access and for the next 15 years the Net Neutrality Bill would be created after a series of trial and error. In February of 2015 the Net Neutrality Bill was passed and has been in place for the past 2 years. It has allowed the government to regulate the internet and allowed them to stop ISPs from slowing down users access to certain websites just to make more profit. The bill has been compared to the first amendment by former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler: "This is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. They both stand for the same concept."
When Trump became president in 2017, changes were quickly made and Ajit Pai was appointed as the new FCC Chairman. Ajit Pai, former attorney for Verizon, has been against Net Neutrality since its passing in 2015, saying that when the government gets involved in internet matters, innovation and growth is halted and could restrict business arrangements. In April of 2017, Pai publicly promised that the FCC would be voting to roll back the Net Neutrality Bill and that this decision would be the first step in opening the market on the internet.
This promise came to fruition December 14 2017, when the FCC voted to repeal the Net Neutrality Bill, with a 3-2 vote across party lines. Some saw this decision as the beginning of a new online era that dictates free trade and an open market where business can thrive, while others saw it as the end to the internet they know and love. While no one knows what will happen, it is obvious that the end of Net Neutrality will only benefit large billion dollar ISPs while medium and even large sized businesses such as Amazon and Netflix will be taking a huge hit from this decision. Ajit Pai and his supporters say that most ISPs will probably not throttle websites to increase revenue and that even if they did, families could just switch internet providers. Well, there are two problems with that; one, being what happens if all ISPs decide to throttle internet speed for their benefit; or, what happens if you live in a remote area where there is access to only one ISP, such as Blairstown NJ?
Though the current situation may seem like all hope is lost, that is not the case. The fight for the internet is not over just because the FCC voted on it. The decision of 5 individuals cannot dictate our livelihood. You can still make a difference, call your congressman and demand they use the Congressional Review Act and preserve a free and open internet, accessible to all.
Visit https://www.battleforthenet.com/ to use the internet to save the internet.