The Right to a Free and Open Internet is at Stake and the Time to Act is Now
by Alex Perman
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to vote on net neutrality on Dec. 14, after calls to delay it were rejected. The repeal is expected to pass with a 3-2 majority of the FCC, but what does this mean for you and internet users across America?
First, we need to address what exactly net neutrality is. Put in place by the Obama administration in 2015, net neutrality is the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can not discriminate or charge for their service differently by user, content, website, or platform. In essence, a company like Comcast cannot charge you more to gain access to a certain website or use a specific application.
Makes sense right?
Why should big corporations like Comcast, AT&T, or Verizon decide which type of content you get to see? The internet is essentially an extension of freedom of speech and we as a people should have a right to a free and open internet, regardless of our social or economic status.
Without net neutrality in place, an ISP can control what you see on the Internet by forcing a platform to pay extra for higher speeds and special treatment. This would in turn, completely alter how we browse the web. By favoring websites with a higher spending allowance, or ones which are directly tied to the ISP themselves, the FCC makes thousands of websites virtually inaccessible to people across America and could be especially prohibitive to small businesses.
What would the internet look like without net neutrality in place?
It’s hard to say exactly what the future of the internet holds since we do not know what big companies like Comcast will rollout immediately if it gets repealed. It could be an unnoticeable change at first, but quickly snowball into a complete slowdown of your favorite websites.
In a New York Times article, a web developer by the name of Shasta Wilson, who runs a small literature publishing business, feared that the loss of net neutrality would result in the internet evolving into “something more like cable television where access to certain online services are sold as part of content packages.” She also worried that protests against the new legislation may fade out if net neutrality vanishes.
To put it bluntly, we do not know what the future of the web will be like. We do know, however, the potential precedent of taking away free access to the internet the FCC could establish. Without the protective bubble of net neutrality, they could legally make using certain websites add monthly charges to an already outrageously expensive internet plan.
So what can we do to stop the repeal of net neutrality?
Many organizations have already been making a formidable push to convince Congress to overturn the decision. Fight for the Future, a 10-person nonprofit has played a major role in leading the opposition to protect net neutrality. They also hoped to organize a virtual demonstration in which internet companies could purposely make their websites run slower to simulate online experiences without net neutrality. Their website, BattlefortheNet.com, plans a massive day of action on Dec. 12 to make one final push before the day of the vote.
Other vocal groups, such as Netflix and Reddit, have spread the word around to millions of people by sending alerts and posting on social media to drive attention for the issue.
The hope of these protests would be to pressure lawmakers on Capitol Hill to pass laws reinstating the net neutrality rules.
The effort in support of net neutrality has not been diminishing and will only increase as the day of the vote draws near. Even if legislation to repeal the right to a free and open internet is passed, the people’s outspoken voices on the issue can still be heard. In a way, the fight for net neutrality is only just beginning.