Net Neutrality—What’s Up With That?

Violet Wright '20, Sports Editor

We all use the internet, and everyone expects it to work a certain way. We want our internet to be fast and reliable; we want access to whatever websites we like. We want to be in control of our own internet experience. These expectations have a name: net neutrality.

Until recently, net neutrality was the status quo. But on December 14, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal net neutrality, which is the right to free internet access without the blocking of certain websites or advertisements.  Since the repeal has not gone into effect yet, many have forgotten about the vote, but its presence still looms over the country.

Let’s recap: in 2014, the FCC voted on a set of rules to enforce net neutrality, but now they are planning to repeal it. The 3-2 vote caused a major uproar in state and local governments. The FCC is now being sued by 21 states, as well as the District of Columbia. The commissioner’s chairman, Ajit Pai, stands with repealing net neutrality, and believes that big corporations have the right to withhold certain privileges of the internet unless they are paid a fee. Companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast will decide what content their users are allowed to see.

On January 31, 2017, California decided to take a big step in protesting against the FCC’s vote by passing a bill calling for net neutrality, which means their state will be safe from internet providers blocking certain content. New York and Montana signed similar legislation. State governments have a chance to change the future of net neutrality by protesting its repeal.

Without net neutrality, businesses, entrepreneurs, and activists could lose a platform to spread their ideas or advertise products. Small business owners need open internet in order to advertise products and communicate with customers. Without net neutrality, small businesses and startups will never be able to compete with bigger corporations, due to the blocking of certain content that corporations would have control over. Net neutrality is a particularly important issue for community activism, which often relies on the internet to build influence. Additionally, it is critical to protecting diverse voices on the internet; there is a lack of diversity in the media and online, and blocking certain messages or media companies, particularly for communities of color, would restrict minority groups’ ability to enact change. Inequalities would only get worse if net neutrality is officially repealed.

Do not forget about net neutrality just because we continue to wake up to the same internet every day. If local and state government advocate for net neutrality with the help of our communities, we might be able to wake up to that same internet for far longer.