Rest in peace: the FCC decides to repeal net neutrality

The+Federal+Communications+Commission+has+implemented+a+policy+that+will+charge+citizens+more+for+internet+quality.
The Federal Communications Commission has implemented a policy that will charge citizens more for internet quality.

The Federal Communications Commission has implemented a policy that will charge citizens more for internet quality.

www.pcmag.com

www.pcmag.com

The Federal Communications Commission has implemented a policy that will charge citizens more for internet quality.

Ben Goldstein, Contributing Writer

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The phrase “Net Neutrality” has become a frequent topic of discussion this month, as concerns about the internet’s future have dominated political discussions, pervaded social media platforms, and captivated the attention of millions of Americans.  So what is “Net Neutrality,” and how will it affect us?

On Dec. 14, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal net neutrality rules—a set of Obama-era regulations requiring that all internet service providers supply consumers with equal, unblocked access to all websites.  Previously, no corporation could speed up websites that pay premiums, prevent users from accessing certain URLs, or interfere with online data transmission.

The internet has operated under these conditions since its inception and has used these protections to grow into a forum for free speech and ideological exchange as well as a platform for numerous new startup businesses.  Nevertheless, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stated that net neutrality regulations were based on  “hypothetical harms and hysterical prophecies of doom” and has persistently advocated for deregulation of the internet.

In order to facilitate the growth of small businesses, protect political advocacy groups, and ensure freedom of the internet for consumers, it is vital that the FCC’s decision to dismantle net neutrality regulations is overturned.

Small online startups have consistently depended on net neutrality to foster their expansion.  Under net neutrality, internet providers cannot speed up or give preferential treatment to larger, more established websites.  Thus, consumers have had the ability to peruse the internet free of restriction and visit the websites of small retailers, social media platforms, and informational pages without giving up any additional money or time.  This policy has allowed former startups such as Google and Facebook to develop markets and establish themselves.

If net neutrality is repealed, consumers will likely be disincentivized (be forced to surrender time or money) from visiting less established websites without the means to pay for premium treatment.  Thus, entrepreneurs will have a more difficult time using the internet to get of the ground, and this in turn will crush innovation and entrepreneurship while depriving the consumers of groundbreaking services.  The only entities that benefit are internet service providers and online behemoths.

Furthermore, the repeal of net neutrality may silence political advocates who oppose the motives of internet service providers.  As internet service providers will gain the ability to block the messages of political advocates they disagree with without citing a reason, they will both increase in political leverage and deliberately promote political ignorance.  This can suppress grassroots movements and deny voices to less established minority advocacy groups without the means to contest their blockading.  Ultimately, the internet will lose its status as a platform for free speech within the United States, setting a dangerous precedent of infringement upon liberties we have previously taken for granted.

Most importantly, however, the repeal of net neutrality is detrimental to the interests of consumers.  In stripping the public of platforms to shop, connect with others, and express their views, the FCC is imposing tyrannical authoritarianism upon Americans and eroding our national sentiment of liberty and social mobility.  Freedom of the press will be greatly compromised and voices of political dissent will be silenced.

Consumers may be blocked from accessing certain content, and will be deprived of numerous online services.  The new internet experience may be expensive, limited, and permeated with propaganda backing the interests of internet service providers.  Aside from members of these organizations and executives at well-established online corporations with the means of paying for preferential treatment, the citizens of the United States will not benefit in any way.  As American citizens and internet users, it is our obligation to fight for the liberated internet that we are used to.  While it is unfortunate that 21st-century citizens of a country that prides itself in having “liberty and justice for all” must now counter a fundamental restriction of basic freedoms, the future of American technological advancement is dependent on this divisive issue.  The internet must be saved, or else millions of Americans will face dire consequences.

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