The Final Verdict on Net Neutrality
By NICK PERNAS | December 28, 2017
On November 20th, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a government agency that regulates all communication in the US, announced plans to dismantle some Obama administration’s regulations that maintained net neutrality. Net neutrality is a set of rules that says internet service providers (ISPs) cannot block, throttle, or prioritize certain content on the internet. A country that enforces net neutrality has a free and open internet, whereas a country without net neutrality can be unfair; the more a company pays the ISP, the better accessibility its web pages become. Without net neutrality, an open American internet could become a privilege only for bigger, more profitable. Smaller businesses could be at a disadvantage due to additional costs they would have to pay ISPs.
ISPs would even be able to block certain pages or charge consumers premiums, simply for accessing basic sites such as YouTube, Amazon, Ebay, Facebook, and others. A provider such as Comcast, who owns a stake in Hulu, could legally slow the streaming speeds of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other competitors. Comcast already did this back in the winter of 2013. Comcast lowered the streaming speeds of Netflix, forcing Netflix to pay the ransom that Comcast was charging. This is not a competitive market. ISPs may appear more like a mafia, forcing people or companies to pay more. These higher costs will fall onto consumers as individual companies increase the prices for their goods and services to reflect the additional charges of the ISPs.
The vast majority of internet giants, like Google and Amazon, have came out against the FCC’s intentions, expressing favor for net neutrality. So, with all of these potential downsides, why is has the FCC threatened net neutrality? Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, has been the figurehead for nixing net neutrality. Pai was appointed to the position by President Trump; he was formerly a lawyer for Verizon, one of the biggest ISPs in the US. The Trump administration opposes net neutrality despite a vast majority of Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, favoring it.
Why Trump opposes net neutrality is another important question. Many among Trump’s voter base flock to websites such as Breitbart, The Blaze, and Infowar. In the comment sections of these websites and YouTube channels, the outcry against net neutrality deregulation seems obvious. One Breitbart subscriber wrote: “This is as anti-consumer as it gets. All will pay more for less while simultaneously enriching corporations as they increasingly control who sees what when and how. This is NOT MAGA. It's a heist and a hijacking.” Many in support of net neutrality also made their voices heard on www.gofccyourself.com, a site dedicated to opposing the deregulation. Yet, on December 14, 2017, the FCC overturned net neutrality in a 3-2 vote.
Without net neutrality, the FCC is liable to remove the essence of the internet itself. The internet initially began to expand to its current status because of its open and free format. Without a free and open internet, it is hard to believe whether a website like YouTube would have ever gained popularity and made a global impact. It is even harder to see how Amazon would have dethroned Barnes & Noble and advanced the e-commerce industry. Net neutrality has upheld innovation and consumer satisfaction. Without it, the future of internet use is highly uncertain.