The ability to use a “free and open” internet may seem like it should be a right instead of a privilege, but that may change in a frighteningly short amount of time.
Imagine going to watch one of your favorite Netflix shows but the log on process takes three times longer than it does already. Or, maybe you’re trying to google something for a project and Google’s response time is significantly longer than it typically is. This would be a little frustrating, wouldn’t it? Now, imagine that when you try to log onto say, Hulu, or you use Bing instead of Google, the response times are way faster than that of their competition. This wouldn’t be due to bad internet connection or a slow computer. If net neutrality ceases to exist, internet service providers (ISP) like Comcast or AT&T can choose which websites and online content customers can use without charge or even at all.
The Federal Communications Council (FCC) is an independent agency of the United States which works to regulate and oversee media like radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. These networks must comply with rules set by the FCC in order to stay in existence. The FCC was designed to ensure that we get the most out of our communication networks by encouraging competition and preventing monopolies. But Ajit Pai, newly appointed FCC chair, has proposed to get rid of existing net neutrality rules and create a different internet.
Before Pai took his seat, the FCC under the Obama administration worked to ensure that net neutrality was more restrictive, ensuring harder rules and regulations on ISP in order to maintain a free and open internet. In order to create these stricter rules, they introduced Title II. This gave the FCC the authority to regulate ISP and enforce net neutrality, actions that the previous legislation did not uphold.
Pai has made a push to ditch Title II and return to Title I. If this goes through, ISP would decide which websites and platforms will run successfully through their servers, which sites customers must pay heavily for and which sites they ban altogether. This would virtually eliminate any independent platforms or those producing content with which ISP disagree.
Internet has become a utility comparable to water or electricity. Open and free internet should be a right, not a privilege. Without it, marginalized communities may have no means to spread their ideas. This essentially comes down to a freedom of speech issue. Everyone should have the right to create, to publish and to speak their mind. So, contact your senators and stay informed. If we value free speech as a country, we cannot allow this proposal to become reality.