Photo: Carolyn Kaster, AP©
The term net neutrality has been floating around the internet for the past few weeks. If you are not familiar with the term, net neutrality is the idea that the internet should be an uncontrolled information hub that should be respected fairly and kept open without the interference of internet and telecommunication providers. Without net neutrality, telecommunication and internet companies would be able to control what websites and information users could have access to. Companies could even charge additional fees to visit sites that they have restricted access to.
Although conversations about net neutrality have been heavy in the last week, this is not a concept that is new. Back in 2014, net neutrality (or open internet as it was more commonly referred to then) was challenged by millions of Americans because in the year before internet providers, like Verizon and AT&T, did not support the open internet initiative. The providers were looking to control certain aspects of consumers access to services. Fortunately that time the internet won.
So what recently changed? The Trump administration was introduced. With the introduction of the Trumps, we were also introduced to personnel in new positions in our government, including a new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai. The term net neutrality popped back up recently because the FCC, led by the direction of Pai, were voting to repeal the principle. Last week, the FCC did just that. The decision now allows telecommunication/internet companies to decide what content they want their customers exposed to. We will definitely see more ads and company-sponsored content in our future. What is the most alarming is that Pai and companies do not think this will negatively impact the internet. Pai made a statement on the ruling saying that “[the repeal] is not going to end the Internet as we know it. It is not going to kill democracy. It is not going to stifle free expression online.” He, and providers like Comcast, believe that it is going to increase competitiveness amongst the telecommunication companies.
To simply put it, net neutrality is important because like the other rights that the US has been founded on, such as the freedom of speech and right to vote, we should have unlimited, unfiltered access to what we want. It seems contradictory to say that we have the right to say and write what we want but we are not allowed to access whatever information we want.
So who won here? It seems like a loss for many internet users but maybe there can be some sort of draw because a society where our access to information is hindered by others is a scary world.