Writer: Maggie Holmes
If you are reading this very article, you’ve likely acquired it from the wonderful place that is the internet. The internet provides information services, video streaming entertainment (I’m talking Netflix here, people), gaming entertainment, social media outlets, and much, much more. The internet is a realm in which every person can enjoy, and we are allowed these freedoms to roam the internet without restrictions because in 2015, the FCC secured Net Neutrality under the Communications Act of 1934 and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
You may be wondering, “What the heckadoodle is all of that mumbo jumbo and why do I care?” I am here to tell you exactly why you care. If it were not for net neutrality, the way the internet has always worked, internet service providers like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon would be able to slow down, speed up, bottle-neck, or block whatever sites they choose to. You would have to pay extra for faster internet or to unblock sites. Massive bandwidth-holders like Google and Amazon would suffer vastly from the loss of internet neutrality, as internet service providers can now charge them more for taking up greater bandwidth; which, in turn, makes them more expensive to the everyday user. To sum it all up, Internet providers will actually be able to control when and how you use the internet. The man who is pushing the anti-neutrality agenda is Ajit Pai (former Verizon employee), internet official and chairman of the FCC.
In order to appeal to my likely entertainment-hungry audience, let’s talk about the almighty Netflix. According to a Recode article published on April 17, 2017, Netflix has approximately 94 million subscribers, and with multiple users per subscription there is likely to be double or even triple that number actually streaming movies and shows. If net neutrality did not exist, internet service providers would come after Netflix immediately because of its massive user base. It is projected by experts at the International Business Times that Netflix would have to begin charging customers a whole $4.80 more in addition to the $9.99 (US dollars) already being charged in streaming fees in order to make up for companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon would charge.
Thank whatever you believe in for net neutrality right? Well, you better start praying because on December 15, 2017 it is likely that Net Neutrality will become a thing of the past. Huge corporations that provide internet services are lobbying the FCC to disband internet neutrality. So, all of those horrible bottle-necking and blocking scenarios are no longer a theoretical risk, but actual impending doom. News outlets are beginning to use words like ‘propaganda’ to describe the FCC’s methods of explaining why net neutrality being repealed would benefit Americans, when, in reality, it will hurt large businesses (Netflix and Amazon) and make their services more expensive; and small businesses, by making it impossible to access their sites without additional fees. The image below is a satirical depiction of what the internet might look like without net neutrality. This photo strikes a startling resemblance to Portugal’s internet, which does not practice net neutrality.
Image from TheVerge.com
What makes this issue so unique is that if you own a phone, laptop, PC, smart TV, or any other device that uses internet to function, you can and will be affected by the loss of net neutrality. Internet platforms involving livestreams, gaming, and social media are at high risk for suffering from the effects of internet neutrality being repealed. I asked a group of college students how often they used the internet, and as you might expect, the uniform 100% response was “every day.” Out of the people asked, only 50% said they would consider paying more for their internet in order to access their favorite sites. Out of all of those who participated in the survey, 75% use AT&T (notoriously anti-net neutrality) as their internet service provider.
The day of reckoning for all internet users in the US is coming soon. If you oppose the destruction of internet freedom, help the hundreds of thousands of people flooding their local congressman’s inboxes and phones pleading for this repeal to be stopped. As of right now, it looks as if internet neutrality will die on Dec 15, the day of the FCC ruling. However, during the thirty day period after that, there is a chance that it can be recovered if people push congress hard enough. If you wish to contact your respective official, sites like BattleFortheNet are making it incredibly easy. It will even provide a script if you wish to go as far as calling the office of Ajit Pai or your local congressman. Of course, if you choose to do so, do so in a respectful and civilized manner.