Net neutrality is vital for an open and fair internet


Joshua Baldwin

Net neutrality is the principle that everyone has the right to equal access to the internet.

This means that internet service providers, or ISPs, are required to provide an open internet that doesn’t prioritize any users or websites over others.

Net neutrality was first instituted in February 2015 under the FCC’s Title II of the Communications Act of 1984.

Without net neutrality ISPs would be free to create so-called “fast lanes” and “slow lanes” for websites.

A website stuck in the slow lane could potentially be slowed to a crawl if it was not able to pay enough to the ISP to be given priority.

This would lead to tech giants such as Google and Netflix being given preferential treatment over smaller tech companies, which would squash innovation.

However, the positive benefits of net neutrality don’t stop with forbidding website prioritization.

Without net neutrality, ISPs would be free to throttle the connection of its customers unless they paid a premium.

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.

Furthermore, ISPs could choose exactly which websites customers were privileged to see.

Any dissenting or controversial opinions the ISP happened to disagree with could be blocked entirely, which would be a huge blow to the free speech we currently enjoy on the internet.

This could severely impact disadvantaged groups such as Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ community who rely heavily on the internet to organize and share ideas.

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, is trying his hardest to repeal Title II, an act which would spell the end for net neutrality.

In the FCC’s address to the Mobile World Congress in September, Pai said that “investment in wireless networks was down significantly in 2016.”

This is one of the main talking points that Pai has put forward in repealing net neutrality protections.

In response to this claim, Mignon Clyburn, a Democratic FCC commissioner, said, “The discussion of investment in the mobile wireless services industry is fundamentally flawed. By highlighting a decrease in investment between 2015 and 2016, this section was clearly written to support the false narrative that the 2015 Open Internet Order deterred wireless carriers from investing in their networks.”

Clyburn said that wireless network investment had been declining even before Title II was put into place, a fact that does not align with Pai’s claim that Title II has been damaging to investment.

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.

Recently, the Senate decided whether Pai should get get another term. In a vote that fell largely along party lines, Pai was re-nominated.

It is becoming increasingly clear that this has become a partisan issue in our government.

While Congress views this as a partisan issue, the American people do not. In a study conducted by Freedman Consulting LLC, 77 percent of Americans support net neutrality, broken down into 73 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Democrats and 76 percent of Independents. Net neutrality should absolutely not be a partisan issue, but it has become abundantly clear that Pai and Republican members of the Senate are in the pockets of broadband companies.

However, the opposition is anything but quiet. There have been many active efforts opposing the repeal of net neutrality, including the Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality, which saw companies as big as Amazon, Google and Netflix join in by spreading awareness of Title II and the protections it provides.

There are also organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Free Press who are spreading awareness for Title II on a daily basis.

Net neutrality is vitally important to anyone who uses the internet. The only people its repeal would benefit are the heads of ISPs.

Pai has been intentionally misleading about the impact and importance of Title II and ISPs have successfully convinced members of Congress to vote against their constituents’ interests.

Everyone should be vocal about saving net neutrality because it affects everyone, regardless of political affiliation. Everyone must continue to spread awareness and make it clear that no one will stand for the repeal of such a landmark internet protection.

Joshua Baldwin is a freshman computer science major from Greensboro, North Carolina.