Net neutrality is the principle that everyone has the right to equal access to the internet.
This means that no matter where one goes on the internet, the experience should remain unimpeded by influence from internet service providers, or ISPs.
Net neutrality was first instituted in February 2015 under the Federal Communications Commission’s Title II of the Communications Act of 1984.
Without net neutrality, ISPs would be allowed to block websites they did not agree with, throttle the upload and download speeds of users for any reason, or even charge more for access to certain types of sites.
Imagine if an ISP chose to block a news site like MSNBC or Fox News just because the ISP did not agree with the site’s political leanings.
Imagine if certain streaming services were slowed in favor of a service that could afford to give the ISP more money.
Imagine if internet sites were carved up into categories, similar to cable packages, where the customer had to pay extra for access to social media, gaming or streaming services.
Without net neutrality, all of these anti-consumer practices, and more, could easily become commonplace.
Net neutrality also gives smaller tech companies the ability to compete on the internet, because they do not have to pay a premium to receive higher speeds that only bigger companies can afford.
The evolving internet landscape has necessitated these protections. Giants like Google and Facebook likely would not have made it if they had started up today without net neutrality protections.
It is clear that net neutrality has become the cornerstone of the open internet.
Unfortunately, Ajit Pai, the current Trump-appointed chairman of the FCC and former Verizon lawyer, has presented a detailed plan to repeal net neutrality.
The FCC is planning on voting to repeal the landmark internet protection on Dec. 14.
The vote is expected to pass 3-2, along party lines.
Pai has made numerous claims defending his decision to gut net neutrality, almost all of which have been demonstrably false or incredibly misleading.
One claim that Pai, along with many ISPs, have often repeated is that net neutrality has hurt ISP investment and growth.
ISPs tell a different story to their investors, who they are legally obligated to tell the truth.
According to the Free Press, a public interest media advocacy group, “not a single publicly traded U.S. ISP ever told its investors (or the SEC) that Title II negatively impacted its own investments specifically.”
Pai himself recently released a so-called “Myth vs. Fact” sheet regarding many of the arguments in support of net neutrality.
In response to many of the arguments, Pai refers to how “the Obama Administration’s 2015 heavy-handed Title II Internet regulations” hurt businesses and how the drawbacks to losing net neutrality, like blocking sites and throttling users, are blown out of proportion.
Pai should probably look up the difference between myth and fact.
First, the regulations were put in place to protect consumers from anti-consumer business practices from ISPs.
Second, ISPs already have a track record of engaging in these practices before Title II was put in place.
For instance, between 2007 and 2009, AT&T tried to block third-party apps like Skype that allowed customers to make voice calls on the iPhone over wireless data connections.
Another example was in 2014 when Comcast got in a public dispute with Netflix, in which Comcast demanded Netflix pay an arbitrary fee to allow Comcast to continue providing the streaming service to its customers.
Netflix gave into the demands, because if they didn’t, they would not be able to reach all of their customers who got their internet through Comcast.
This also does not take into account the issue in which many United States citizens do not have access to more than one or two ISPs, which creates natural monopolies and forces people to either go along with whatever their ISP says, or not have access to high-speed internet.
Pai also wants consumers to trust that ISPs will not hurt consumers. Even if, by the off-chance, ISPs do not jump at the opportunity to take advantage of the lack of net neutrality, why would it even be necessary to remove it in the first place?
ISPs are not driven by the public good; they are driven by their shareholders and what makes them the most profit.
There is a lot of profit to be made from carving up the internet.
If the public controlled ISPs, then net neutrality would not be at risk of being lost.
Over the summer, the FCC had an open comment period on Title II which allowed anyone to indicate whether they were for or against net neutrality.
A study, funded by ISPs, of each unique comment found that 1.52 million were in favor of net neutrality while only 23,000 were in favor of repeal.
In a study conducted by Freedman Consulting LLC, it was found that 77 percent of Americans support net neutrality, broken down into 73 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Democrats and 76 percent of Independents.
It is clear that the overwhelming majority of United States citizens support net neutrality, but it is becoming increasingly clear that Pai simply does not care.
It has also become a partisan issue in the government where it shouldn’t be, based on the fact that people from all political parties heavily support net neutrality.
Net neutrality could be saved if enough Republicans in Congress made it clear that there would be political ramifications for the FCC if it is repealed, or Congress could levy its power to overrule regulation from agencies within the government.
Despite efforts to contact representatives to compel them to come out against the repeal of net neutrality, no Republicans in Congress have done so.
It doesn’t help that telecoms lobbyists have spent millions of dollars bribing members of Congress.
For instance, senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, both Republican senators of North Carolina, received $58,500 and $41,220 respectively from telecom lobbyists in the last election cycle.
The FCC will also prohibit states from creating their own regulatory laws in order to maintain net neutrality.
It is ironic that the party that claims to the champion of states’ rights only allows the states to do what they want when it’s politically expedient.
All of this begs the question: what can the people do to fight for net neutrality?
There have already been many active efforts opposing the repeal of net neutrality, including the Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality, in which companies as big as Amazon, Google and Netflix joined by spreading awareness of Title II and the protections it provides.
There are also more protests in the works, such as the one on Dec. 7, that will take place at Verizon stores to bring more awareness to the issue.
There will also be a grace period after the vote on Dec. 14 if it is successful, in which lawsuits can be levied against the FCC that will hopefully slow down the entire process.
And, while it has not been very successful, it is important to continue contacting congressional representatives and the FCC to make it clear that the American people will not support the repeal of such a landmark protection.
Only one of the three FCC members planning on voting yes need to change their mind. The vote is rapidly approaching, but there is still time to make a last ditch effort to do so.
It is outrageous that a government that claims to be of the people, by the people and for the people would so blatantly and disrespectfully disregard the will of the people, but it is unfortunately the reality United States citizens currently live in.
Time will tell how the next few weeks play out, and one can only hope that the people can ultimately get their way.
Joshua Baldwin is a freshman computer science major from Greensboro, North Carolina.
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