How important is the freedom of the internet to you?
On Dec. 14, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote to repeal the previous net neutrality laws set in place in 2015 enforcing neutrality, called the Open Internet Act. Under the advisement of its chairman Ajit Pai, the FCC has proposed a new act entitled the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which will evaluate and possibly reverse the 2015 act. The vote is to determine whether the internet really needs intervention. After the vote, the ruling must go through multiple courts and lawsuits.
Net neutrality is the standard rule that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must treat any and all data on the internet the same, whether it benefits them or not. This means they cannot charge different prices for high-speed internet or block users from viewing certain content. If the Restoring Internet Freedom Act is passed, ISPs like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon could in theory have more control over the content on the internet
There are two very distinct sides to this issue. On one side, the FCC claims that the Restoring Internet Freedom Act would minimize vagueness of rules and regulations, benefit investors and give more value to consumers. According to its website, the FCC wants to completely repeal the Open Internet Order because of its “1930s-era utility-style regulation” called Title II. They could charge the big name companies for service in order to make way for innovators and smaller sites, in a way spreading the wealth — the FCC refers to it as “diverting resources.” Likewise, they could block access to age-sensitive and piracy sites.
In opposition, the new laws would change the very freedoms that the internet and its users have enjoyed for the past 20 years. Services like Netflix could cost much more; many sites and services that were previously free would come with a charge; and if provoked, large ISPs could restrict or charge their competition (although they have said they would not) and ultimately decide who gets to view what on the internet.
Should the internet remain a completely level playing field? Or should it be heavily regulated?
The internet I have freely enjoyed since growing up should remain just that — free. We already pay for many facets of the internet, including domains and services like Netflix. Adding more costs to the internet would feel like being taxed even more. Likewise, businesses that are just starting out need the opportunity to thrive without their biggest competitors thwarting their chances. These are the main principles of a free market economy: one with little government interference or big-business monopoly and the freedom to individually and privately conduct business no matter the size of one’s enterprise.
For many years the internet has served as a platform for freedom of speech, a place where those who do not have the loudest voices can be heard. If the FCC adds more regulation, these rights are lost. Big businesses already influence commerce in the U.S., and taking the little internet power away from any other business only increases their capabilities to control the market.
Net neutrality keeps our businesses equal, maintains freedom of speech, and keeps the internet and its services low-cost and accessible. If this issue spans further than the Federal Communications Commission, Americans must fight for their right to a free internet and to keep and expand net neutrality.
Written by Claire Maxwell