Nowadays, accessing the Internet is almost a necessity in everyday lives. Kids play video games online, teenagers text and check social media on their phones, and students and the working both need the Internet to write reports or send emails. In fact, there are now thousands of jobs revolving around the Internet, from YouTube entertainers to web designers; most parts of the Western world rely heavily on the web.
What is Net Neutrality?
Merriam-Webster defines Net Neutrality as:
“The idea, principle, or requirement that Internet service providers should or must treat all Internet data as the same regardless of its kind, source, or destination”
From 2005 to 2012, the Federal Communications Commission, or the FCC, had repeatedly tried to push for net neutrality. After all, a free and neutral web for all was desired. However, the FCC’s attempts were often shot down, such as in one case from 2011. Verizon, a large ISP (Internet service provider), disagreed with the FCC’s order to enforce an open net in 2010, and filed a legal appeal. Michael Glover, Verizon’s Senior Vice President at that time, stated, “Today’s filing is the result of a careful review of the FCC’s order,” and “[w]e are deeply concerned by the FCC’s assertion of broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband networks and the Internet itself.” In 2014, Verizon won the appeal, and net neutrality was unable to be enforced. This court ruling was met with heavy backlash, as many citizens wanted net neutrality to be in place.
However, in 2015, the FCC was finally able to lay down rules for net neutrality. These new rules banned the use of favoring certain content over others for Internet users, created new regulations for broadband usage, prohibited paid prioritization of Internet content, and did more to keep the web free and open. However, many argued that the new laws still contained many loopholes, and ISPs could possibly maneuver around these laws. Still, this was a big step forward towards the direction of total net neutrality.
But this might all change.
FCC’s new chairman, Ajit Pai, has new changes to make for net neutrality. In 2015, Pai was against the new laws from the FCC, believing that the new regulations were unjust and unfair. He believed that the FCC should have less power over the telecommunications industry. In May 2017, Pai wanted to cut back on the FCC regulations, believing that a regulation-free policy would be better. However, like before, this was met with much backlash. Millions of Internet users and Internet-based companies such as Twitter and Netflix expressed disapproval and outrage. These people believed that without FCC regulations, ISPs could purposely slow down Internet services and charge extra fees for higher speed Internet.
Millions of complaints and messages were sent to the FCC, which has sparked a major uproar online, believing that ISPs would definitely go down the route where they made the most money. ISPs have repeatedly stated that the change in net neutrality rules will not change anything in their business plans. However, it is important to note that Comcast, a large American ISP, has nullified its pledge to maintain net neutrality already.
With everything going on, there seems to be only one side that most people are on: maintaining net neutrality. Both sides of the political spectrum are against Pai’s decision. Multiple members of congress have already stated that they disagreed with Pai’s plan. In fact, in a 2011 Tweet, President Donald Trump criticized the Obama administration for failing to set up net neutrality rules at that time, claiming that “net neutrality is the fairness doctrine.”
Naturally though, there are still a few who support Pai’s decision. Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, has stated that he supported Pai’s plan to repeal the “heavy handed policies” and has stood behind Pai.
The FCC will vote on this issue on December 14, 2017. Whether net neutrality stays or becomes destroyed will all depend on this vote.