Our View: Net Neutrality must be protectedBy CW Editorial Board | 11/29/2017 9:15pm
On December 14, the Federal Communications Commission will vote on whether to repeal Net Neutrality rules adopted by the same body in 2015. These rules are integral to preserving the internet as we know it, prohibiting internet service providers from slowing or blocking content at whim or giving preferential treatment to certain websites and applications. Repealing net neutrality would be disastrous for citizens all over the country, and it would especially be so for college students so reliant on the free flow of internet information.
As it exists now, the internet is a great democratizing force. Any person can reach any website – though you may have to pay for content on certain sites, actually accessing the websites is free for all. Millions of people pressured the 2015 FCC to adopt rules that would formally protect this setup of the internet, intending to make certain that the internet would be open and fair for all.
However, the current FCC with the Trump-appointed chairman Ajit Pai wants to repeal these rules. Net neutrality can be a confusing topic, so here’s what the internet would look like if Pai has his way: internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon will be able to charge companies for their sites to work faster. That means big-name, wealthy websites like Google and Facebook will be able to pay for these “fast lanes,” and smaller companies will be left with noticeably slower speeds, meaning fewer people will want to access these sites with their slow buffering speeds.
To pay for these fees, content providers like Netflix, social media sites, news organizations and more will start charging users to even access their websites – not just the content, but the website itself.
College students, if the scenario still does not feel real enough for you, imagine this: to access Netflix and HBO Go, you have to buy the “Premium Streaming Services” internet package from Comcast for an additional $20 a month. This is in addition to all the other packages you pay for the content you want, and the higher fees you now have to pay to Netflix and HBO. Need to research at home to write a report? You’ll have to buy packages to access information and news websites, and then pay fees to access those sites, as well. Even the most flexible of college budgets will have a hard time accommodating what it takes to pay the price of repealing Net Neutrality.
There is still hope for the future of the internet. The vote is not scheduled for another two weeks, and hopefully, if the FCC is inundated with enough messages from people all over the country in defense of Net Neutrality, they will reconsider their stance. But changing their minds will require an enormous amount of grassroots action: calling the FCC, calling your representatives, signing petitions and taking part in social media campaigns.
Net Neutrality is not a “sexy” issue. There are no sick children to rally around, no tearful stories of deportation. It is a hard topic for many to connect with and feel passionately about. However, it needs just as much attention and activism as policies like healthcare and immigration.
Our contemporary society revolves around the internet, and if we truly believe that everyone deserves equal access to it and the information within, then we must believe in net neutrality.
Our View is the consensus of the Crimson White Editorial Board.