by Milo Jones
Net neutrality is a concept first brought to mainstream attention by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) failed Open Internet Act of 2010. Net neutrality is the concept that webpages cannot be slowed down, blocked, or locked behind a more expensive internet plan by an Internet Service Provider (ISP), no matter what content the site is based around.
Net neutrality is an essential extension of our laws and free speech, because it allows anyone with access to the Internet to have their voice heard. Under Barack Obama, the board members of the FCC elected to put net neutrality into law. However, our rights to the free internet are under risk once again under President Trump’s new selected chairman, Ajit Pai. In May of 2017, Pai announced his plan to abolish the net’s Title II status, which means that it is classified as an essential service. Along with the loss of this status, he planned to abolish net neutrality.
This announcement caused backlash across the internet, and over 22 million comments were lodged about the plan, most highly negative. However, on December 14, 2017, Pai and the two Republican board members voted 3-2 to abolish net neutrality, despite the backlash.
The reason the FCC wishes to do this is somewhat unclear. Some sources say it is to help ISPs. ISPs hate net neutrality because it would help their economics immensely if they were able to charge extra for certain features of the internet. Ajit Pai says that the net neutrality laws are overly restrictive on ISPs, and the new rules will, according to Pai, increase competition, and will help the FCC from needing to micromanage everything as opposed to setting rules of the road and letting companies go at it. Pai also claims that it will also bring new jobs and greater investment opportunities.
This is not a law that will pass you by. There are many ways it could affect activities you perform every day.
Without net neutrality, your favorite YouTube channels could be slowed down because your ISP supports a different channel. In countries without net neutrality, like Mexico, apps like Snapchat and Instagram can only be used with certain ISPs if you pay for a more expensive internet package.
However, even though the bill has passed, there is still a way for concerned citizens to fight back.
A law called the Congressional Review Act empowers Congress to review and overrule any recently passed legislation, including the recent end of net neutrality. Using the website https://www.savetheinternet.com/sti-home, anyone can be directly connected to their national representatives and can urge them to utilize this Act.