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Don’t Stay Neutral About Net Neutrality

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A San Francisco rally against the repeal of Net Neutrality in September 2017.

A San Francisco rally against the repeal of Net Neutrality in September 2017.

By Credo Action (Protect Net Neutrality rally, San Francisco) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Credo Action (Protect Net Neutrality rally, San Francisco) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A San Francisco rally against the repeal of Net Neutrality in September 2017.

Sonia Rao, Opinion Editor

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Everyone uses the Internet.  Since the nascence of the World Wide Web in 1990, the Internet has become a fundamental part in the lives of most citizens of developed, industrialized nations.  We have become a society reliant on the global system of interconnected networks that links computer devices worldwide.  However, unbeknownst to many Internet-users, the Internet is about to change: forever.

Net neutrality is the word that has been on the tip of everyone’s tongues for weeks.  For those who don’t know, net neutrality is the principle that all data on the Internet must be treated the same by Internet Service Providers (ISPs). They are not allowed to discriminate/charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication.  This means that ISPs are not allowed to block, slow down, or charge money for specific websites and online content.  Net neutrality is a policy that has been in place since the beginnings of the Internet, and is one of the fundamental systems that allows the Internet to function as a free, open, and equal enterprise for all.  However, this important principle is about to come to a screeching halt, altering the way that the Internet works forever.  

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently released a plan to eliminate net neutrality rules by next week.  This plan arrives in wake of many ISPs, such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon, lobbying the U.S. government to end net neutrality, presumably to increase their commercial profits.  This is a huge threat to companies that do business on the internet, because ISPs would have the ability to block or limit access to certain websites for their consumers, such as blocking access to the popular streaming service Netflix and instead selling/publicizing  streaming services of their own.  Other frightening possible results of the decision include providers charging consumers extra for mainstream news sites or slowing down website access for political candidates who don’t support their positions, causing Americans to have access to limited, one-sided information about politics and world events.  There are so few internet service providers monopolizing the industry that Americans have no choice to but to use their services and comply with their rules.  

Speed is another factor at risk with the repeal of net neutrality.  With the ability to control consumers’ internet traffic without the consumers able to see what is being controlled, Internet connections could become substantially slower.  Speed is one of the defining characteristics of today’s Internet.  Without high speeds, the accessibility and power of the Internet is ripped away.  

Since the FCC’s controversial decision to repeal net neutrality, many have chosen to stand up for their web rights.  The FCC has received 200,000 phone calls, with 500,000 comments left on the agency’s website and additional protesters campaigning to Congress.  The issue has been a hot topic on platforms such as Twitter and Reddit as well.  In addition, not all internet companies support the FCC’s decision.  Members of the Internet Association, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Uber, Netflix, Airbnb, and eBay are all supporters of net neutrality.  Groups and organizations like Free Press and Mozilla are prepared to file suit.  The vote over net neutrality is set to occur on December 14th, 2017.  If our internet rights are to be protected, we cannot stay neutral.  For more information on how to join the fight, visit https://www.battleforthenet.com. 

By Jdietsch (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Don’t Stay Neutral About Net Neutrality