Net Neutrality. You’ve been hearing those words all week just as much as I have. But what do they mean? Simply put, it’s what allows the internet to be open and accessible to all of its users, allowing us the freedom to go wherever or whenever we want on the web. Many things that make the internet so integral to online communication and trade is because of net neutrality, allowing us to access online innovations such as Netflix, Skype, Steam, Facebook, and so much more. If repealed, the internet will become completely deregulated and everything you’ve come to love about it will cease to exist.
Sounds dramatic I know, but it’s true, especially in my case. Independent journalists such as myself live and die by net neutrality. In the face of major media conglomerates such as TIME, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times, writers like me are small fry compared to big fishes like them. And yet, net neutrality sets us on an even playing field because all of our data is treated equally on the web. Because of net neutrality, content creators like me always have an equal opportunity to reach web traffic, just as much as any of our competitors do.
So why does the Federal Communications Commission want to repeal net neutrality? The reason FCC chairman Ajit Pai claims is to “restoring internet freedom,” although you have to wonder if he’s talking about freedom for the internet or for its service providers?
“The federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet,” Pai announced in a statement last month. “Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them, and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.”
First of all, the service plan that’s best for its users is the one we already have now, where we’re charged with one bill per month for internet use. That’s directly because of net neutrality. If repealed, the one bill we have to pay would be split into multiple different bills, which would just make payment a lot more confusing for its users by the end of the month.
When you buy a pair of jeans, you pay one amount for the jeans, not multiple payments individually for the beltline, shins, legs, and pockets. The pair of jeans we’re wearing right now is the internet with net neutrality. If net neutrality is repealed, we would have to pay for all of our services individually, including social media, streaming services, email, online shopping, and more.
Second, there’s no evidence that the government is “micromanaging the internet” to begin with. That would imply that they dictate control over what content is available and what can or can’t be shared, to which they obviously do not. Don’t believe me? Then why hasn’t Donald Trump blocked The New York Times’ or CNN’s content on the web? Why didn’t Barack Obama put up a paywall for Fox News or Breitbart? Simple: it’s because they can’t.
However, while the government’s job isn’t to “micromanage” the internet, it is it’s job to regulate it, specifically via the FCC. Pai says that internet service providers will regulate themselves without checks and balances, but that couldn’t be more incorrect. Service providers have been trying to abuse the internet since 2005, from AT&T blocking Skype and FaceTime to Verizon and Sprint blocking Google Wallet. What stopped them from doing these things was the FCC. Why? Because it’s their job. When you put up traffic cameras on the street to monitor traffic, you’re not “micromanaging” the roads. You’re checking to make sure that drivers are being safe and responsible. When police officers put on body cameras while on-duty, you’re not “micromanaging” police work. You’re holding them accountable for unethical or illegal behavior they may engage in while wearing the badge.
The same applies to the FCC. It’s their job to monitor the internet and make sure it remains free and open, not restricted and limited. For an entity that’s supposed to regulate the internet, why on Earth would they want to deregulate it? That would be like a babysitter leaving the kids to fend for themselves while she’s out with her boyfriend. When the parents come home to find the house on fire, it would not be the kids’ fault. It would be the babysitter’s.
Third, repealing net neutrality would not empower free speech: it would potentially inhibit it. As I mentioned before, internet service providers are currently not allowed to treat data impartially on the web. But if net neutrality is repealed? Then it becomes a crapshoot. ISP’s can put up paywalls for certain websites in addition to the paywalls that may already exist, they can ban certain URLs, even block entire websites altogether.
With the internet as we have it now, we have an equal opportunity to digest and process different types of information at the same time. But take net neutrality out of the picture, and suddenly you have a whole sect of the internet you might not be able to access.
Net neutrality does not inhibit free speech. It protects it. Anyone who says otherwise misunderstands net neutrality and how it impacts our internet consumption.
So again, why does the FCC really want to repeal net neutrality? We can only speculate a number of reasons. It could be because they want to deregulate the internet to lessen the media’s resolve against the Trump administration. It could be because their donors are in the service provider’s pockets and their literal incomes might be on the line. Or it could be just to snow Obama again, as net neutrality was approved during Obama’s second term as president.
Either way, this is a serious issue in protecting our internet freedom and something everyone should be concerned about, whether you exist on the left or right end of the political spectrum. The FCC meets to vote on net neutrality on Dec. 14, and this is more serious than any other legislative issue going on this year. Why? It’s because we possess less of a say in it. Whatever you thought about legislation this year regarding healthcare, credit unions, and tax plans, we at least have a hand of influence in those decisions. That’s because no matter how your senators voted this year, they have to turn around and face your votes during the senate elections in 2018. Actions and consequences are attached to every decision politicians make, and they are delivered by the American people deciding whether or not their senators get to keep their jobs next year.
The FCC, however, is a different story. Unlike with senators and congressmen, voters like you and me don’t impact the employment of FCC commissioners. They are 100% employed by the president and his cabinet. Because of this, our voices matter now more than ever, and they need to be loud enough so every commissioner can hear them from miles away.
So before the FCC votes to repeal net neutrality on Dec. 14, don’t forget to call them on their direct line at 1-202-418-1000, or email the members directly at Ajit.Pai@fcc.gov, Mignon.Clyburn@fcc.gov, Mike.O’Rielly@fcc.gov, Brendan.Carr@fcc.gov, and Jessica.Rosenworcel@fcc.gov. Call them and email them once, then keep calling and emailing them up until the day of the vote. Otherwise you might not be able to access this web page the next time you type in my address.
– David Dunn