The principle of net neutrality states that large internet service providers (ISPs), such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T, should not be able to interfere and exploit users’ internet experience. Current policy prohibits these providers from blocking or favoring websites through the data-optimizing process of paid prioritization. Net neutrality is essential for educational purposes and economic and political freedoms, all of which are crucial in our democracy.
In recent years, our freedom of the web has been substantially challenged by these very same ISPs, which seek to manipulate the principle of net neutrality by undermining our protections to accumulate more power and restrict what the user can see.
In 2015, millions of activists demanded that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) protect the rights of internet users by enforcing Title II of the Communications Act, which regulates the Broadband Telecommunications Industry. The FCC complied with the public’s desires, but lobbyists and members of Congress have worked to roll back the decision by introducing deceptive bills that include loopholes for discriminatory practices and restrain the FCC’s ability to revise Title II.
Today, the debate has carried over into the Trump administration. Trump’s recent nomination of former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai as FCC Chairman was received with great support by large ISPs.
Pai has promised to “protect consumers” and make the FCC more open and transparent. However, he has also criticized and seeks to dismantle the net neutrality rules that were implemented in 2015.
Entrepreneurs, small businesses and startups rely on an open internet to thrive. Net neutrality provides a level playing field on which consumers freely choose which products and services they wish to see. The consequences of Pai and the ISPs getting their way are grand. It has become a trend in our country for a considerable amount of power to be centralized in too few hands. As a result, many communities will be negatively affected and left in a position that will not allow them to fight back.
If the protections of net neutrality were removed, the opportunity for ISPs to impose more fees for faster internet would arise and small businesses would be at a disadvantage. Innovation and competition would drastically decrease, giving a tremendous amount of power to already large companies.
Political opportunities would diminish, as ISPs could potentially block the voices of political opinions with which they disagree. Candidates running for office would struggle to challenge incumbents, which hurts the democratic process. Social activists would have a difficult time organizing people for injustices that are not being addressed. This sets a dangerous precedent, as the future of the country is decided not by the people but by large companies that seek profit and power.
The public comment period on the FCC’s proposal to end net neutrality ends on Aug. 30. Freedom of speech is at stake as we strive to protect our right to freely roam the web. Now is the time to reach out to policymakers, voicing our dissent and urging them to protect our freedoms.
Daniel Gallego is a sophomore majoring in political science, economics, and psychology.
Featured courtesy Pixabay user blickpixel.