Sydney Dawes| Lifestyle Editor| firstname.lastname@example.org
The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) will vote on the proposed repeal of net neutrality on December 14. What exactly does this mean, and what is net neutrality, anyway? Here’s a hint: you experience it every time you open an app on your phone.
What Is Net Neutrality?
Net neutrality is the principle protected by the FCC that states Internet service providers (or ISPs, such as Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast) must treat all content, platforms, applications, and users equally. In other words, Internet service providers cannot charge users more money to use specific applications or view content.
Net neutrality also assures that Internet Service providers can’t manipulate the content we see, according to the director of Ohio University’s ACLU Student Group, Nick Concilla. “These companies could slow down or block traffic that they don’t like, and could speed up traffic that they do like or that pays them for the privilege,” he said. “Essentially, these companies would control everything from the news we see, which pizza company we use, and what search engine is best.”
Who Would Benefit from the Repeal of Net Neutrality?
The repeal of net neutrality would put ISPs at a major advantage, according to OU College Democrats President Ashley Fishwick. “They could raise the price of internet access based upon which sites one would like access to or, based upon their investors, they could slow access to certain content,” she said. “Everyone outside of these companies could be negatively impacted by net neutrality’s removal, but especially those in worse financial circumstances or certain vocal political factions.”
And the disadvantaged? “The only people who would be negatively impacted are everyday Americans who rely on the internet for news, communication, and entertainment, among other things,” said Concilla.
What Is at Stake?
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed a plan in May 2017 that would eliminate rules established by Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Pai argued that net neutrality discourages ISPs from truly competing with one another. “Without the overhang of heavy-handed regulation, companies will spend more building next-generation networks,” Pai said during the announcement of his proposal.
If net neutrality is repealed, Americans will have to pay more money to access certain kinds of content: for example, if you want to use SnapChat, Twitter, or Instagram, you may have to buy special social media bundles.
This issue isn’t solely about money, however. Net neutrality is crucial to democracy, according to Fishwick. “In an age where digital media is the best way to organize and exercise constitutional rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of assembly” she said, “the demise of net neutrality could give internet companies the capacity to limit access to these rights, particularly for socio-economically disadvantaged groups.”
Concilla agrees. “The internet is used every day by most Americans – which is why free speech and freedom of expression must be protected both offline and online,” he said. “Access to both spaces to express oneself and educational resources provided by the internet are critical to democracy. These constitutional freedoms aren’t worth much if where most people actually make use of them are not themselves free.”
The loss of net neutrality, according to Save the Internet, could very well lead to a decline in progress with social justice. Minority groups not only use the Internet to organize information and gather together, but also to kick back against discrimination, such as with the Black Lives Matter movement. If ISPs have the ability to censor content or slow down traffic, certain messages– and thus, certain voices– will not be heard.
*We reached out to the OU College Republicans, but representatives from the organization declined to comment.*