Net Neutrality Facing Repeal

How to understand the issue and make your opinion known on the corporatization of the .coms


Laura Madler

The openness of the internet will be threatened by the internet giants if the Net Neutrality rollback passes.

This is the age of the internet- the information age. In the 28 years since the formation of the World Wide Web (www.), the internet has become virtually indispensable to daily life and business. Here in the United States, 73% of Americans access online content every day. With the internet being such a powerful and constant presence in the lives of the people, it follows that there should be policies in place to keep the internet a fair and open space- which has been a trademark of internet in the US since its inception in 1989. The fate of these rules and regulations for administrating the internet have, quite recently, come under fire.

This issue at hand is the concept of “net neutrality.” Net neutrality is essentially a policy that maintains the use and provision of the internet as equal under all providers, without data interference or manipulation. No matter which internet company you use, whether you connect to the internet via dial-up or wireless, or even what device you access the internet from- net neutrality ensures that you will be able to access online content with the expectation of fair speeds and browsing free from intervention by your internet provider.

Net neutrality rules not only ensure users the liberty to browse unrestricted content, but they also help small companies and websites grow and thrive next to giants like Amazon, Google, and big media. Net neutrality mandates that internet providers cannot favor certain companies over others. Without the rule, providers could restrict data speeds or access to favor the companies that pay them the most. Keeping the internet unbiased maintains a more level playing field for companies of all ages and sizes to exist.

This policy of fairness, however, could be dissolved very soon, changing the internet on a fundamental level.

In January 2017, shortly after his inauguration, President Donald Trump named a new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is a government branch that regulates issues concerning the radio, phone, television, and internet, as well as controlling censorship of broadcast content. The new chairman is Ajit Pai, a former Republican member of the FCC under Barack Obama’s administration, and a lawyer for the major media company, Verizon, before that. Pai has proposed a rollback of net neutrality policy, and, after the idea garnered a lot of backlash over the summer of 2017, the proposal has come to vote in the FCC. This vote on December 14th may be the most influential government action concerning the internet in the past several years.

Should the net neutrality rollback be voted through, internet users could see a significant change in service. The repeal of net neutrality leaves internet providers open to manipulate and restrict online content. One common plan among many providers is the idea for a multi-tiered internet service. This would stratify internet service into different levels, each of which may be different speeds or offer different content. For example, consumers may be forced to pay extra for an additional ‘streaming’ package if they want to have access to streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify at reasonable speeds. Other consumers may have to pay an additional fee for faster data speeds. This also poses a problem with corruption and online partiality in the internet providers. Without net neutrality, a company could pay or sponsor an internet provider, who would then try to promote that company’s interest. Say, for instance, that Amazon started sponsoring and working with Verizon. Verizon could then slow down data speeds for other streaming and online ordering services in order to make consumers favor Amazon. Such data manipulation is unfair to consumers, who currently are promised equal internet speeds and no extra expense for most online services.

In addition to controlling data speeds and access, the rollback of net neutrality repeals policies that keep internet providers from interfering with and censoring online content. This is not a purely theoretically circumstance, and internet providers were caught restricting content even as close as ten years ago. In 2007, Verizon was found blocking content from the pro-abortion rights group NARAL in the United States because the company did not agree with the message of the group. AT&T was scorned in 2007 for censoring lyrics in a Pearl Jam song during a online streaming of their performance because the lyrics expressed protest against then-president George W. Bush. A common internet provider, Comcast, was actually brought to court for interfering with data on file-sharing websites like BitTorrent, eDonkey, and Gnutella. The ruling was challenged by the powerful company, and reversed in Comcast’s favor. Without the more stringent rules enforced in the latest net neutrality policies, companies are allowed to continue this data manipulation and censorship without fear of consequence. This in its very nature is against the right of free speech and expression online.

Net neutrality is not a passive issue, and it will require dedicated citizen action to stop the rollback in its tracks. Thousands of people have already signed petitions, left comments on the official FCC page, and spread information about the dangers of the repeal on various social media platforms. It is still not too late to let your voice be heard on the issue. Below is a collection of links for petitions and comment pages that will let you voice your opinion on the repeal before it goes to vote on December 14th. Students are urged to take the opportunities linked below to exercise their democratic rights of expression.


Freepress Petition

Whitehouse Petitions Petition

Sign for Good Petition


FCC Comment Page

Battle for the Net Letter