In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission enacted legislation banning the use of “blocking and throttling of consumer-sought legal content online.” Recently, the new chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, declared that he supports the repeal of net neutrality. While he suggests the repeal will allow companies more investment opportunities and growth, the effects would be quite the opposite.
Actually, the only companies that would see any growth, instead of demise, would be companies that are already rolling in dough. It will not increase competition and it will allow big-names to squash the little guy. And while I am usually greatly against government interference, I am more concerned with the exploitation of the consumer and the potential limitations of free speech.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality, defined by Title II of the Communications Act and the Open Internet Order of 2015, is essentially what keeps the internet equal. Currently, your ISPs, like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast, charge you a fee simply to have access to the internet. If net neutrality is repealed, the same ISPs will charge you to access the internet, but can also pick and choose which websites you can and cannot access, and at what speeds. While the FCC is declaring that companies must let you know they are doing this, it doesn’t mean that you are protected by any means.
What Does That Mean For Consumers?
Let’s say you are an avid binge-watcher. Your ISP could deny you access to Netflix and Hulu unless you opt into their ‘Entertainment Package’, which could ring in at any absurd monthly fee they want to charge. Also, your ISP could strike a deal with a company, for example, Hulu, and therefore either deny access to other similar sites or lessen competitors browsing speeds so they are virtually useless anyway.
What Does This Mean For Free Speech?
While lower browsing speeds, higher fees, and selective surfing are all great downsides to repealing net neutrality, allowing businesses to be in control of the internet is going to put huge dents in the common American’s access to their voice. Political movements are being started on Twitter. People of different citizenships and religions and races and languages are sharing experiences and creating pathways of innovation. Regular people are sharing their own truths, and that could all go away very quickly.
For example, social media has influenced celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Rihanna to make efforts to free Cyntoia Brown, who has spent the last 13 years in prison for killing the man who bought her via a sex trafficking ring. Social media brought to light the exploited judicial system in cases like hers, the Brock Turner rape case, as well as the numerous celebrity sexual harassment accusations being released via social media as victims find the strength to speak up in numbers. That could all disappear.
How? Your news media will be controlled by a select few sources. If big companies like ABC, CBS, or CNN cut deals with ISPs for faster browsing speeds, other news outlets will be left in the dust. Growing startups like this very site will be stuck behind or even blocked by big-name ISPs and companies. There will not be little guys to fact-check the big guys. ‘We the people’ will not have a public platform anymore. Fortune 500 companies will be taking monopolies on our internet, a worldwide source of news and communication.
If you think ‘fake news’ is a problem now, just wait.
What Can You Do?
You can visit DEARFCC.ORG to write an email to your government representatives expressing your concerns about the FCC and net neutrality.