Ending Open Internet, Along with Civil Rights

The internet may soon be fundamentally changed. Dec. 14 marks the date the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is scheduled to vote on net neutrality, also known as open internet. Net neutrality is defined by Business Insider writer Rob Price as “the principle that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally.” Basically, as The Nation writer John Nichols put it, “Net neutrality is the First Amendment of the Internet.”

Leading the charge against net neutrality is Ajit Pai, chairman of the FCC. Pai claims that the US government is “micromanaging the internet.” Pai’s argument includes the idea that reversing net neutrality will allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to be innovative and “offer customers new options at more competitive price points,” reported NBC News writer Alyssa Newcomb.  

As the mastermind behind the likely soon-to-be repealed net neutrality laws, Pai has defended his position by claiming this revocation will promote competition, as well as insisting transparency will be required. Under the new guidelines, ISPs would have to disclose practices such as creating various loading speeds to different pages, favoring their own sites or completely blocking access to other sites through either a public website or through the FCC.

Right now, an open internet means ISPs cannot require consumers to pay more for certain apps or websites or charge businesses more in exchange for loading their sites quicker than those who cannot pay as much. Net neutrality ensures all companies — the well-established and the barely-beginning — receive equality on the internet. Without net neutrality, “gateway corporations like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T will have too much power to mess with the free flow of information,” ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley argued.

Repealing net neutrality would be devastating in more than one way. It will thwart new businesses from starting, coerce consumers into paying more for quicker services, segregate those who are unable to afford faster internet and ultimately permit ISPs to limit what we are able to see online.

If the open internet ends, only big businesses benefit. It is yet another display of the Trump administration’s favoritism towards large corporations and complete disregard for anyone below the elite class. Regular, everyday web users will have an entirely changed internet experience, with ISPs showing only what they want us to see unless we are able to fork over money for the same internet we have right now. Current students could be limited in the online research they are able to access and potential college students may find little to no data online about future colleges unless universities are willing and able to pay more for their information to be broadcasted.

Although the December vote is forecasted to easily pass because of a Republican advantage, supporters of net neutrality have promised to file lawsuits in opposition of the reversal. In the meantime, however, it is important to reach out to your elected officials and voice your concerns. A world without net neutrality is a world without free speech online. As Jay Stanley said, “Internet rights are civil rights,” and there is nothing more important to fight for than those.


Illustration by Kalie Murphy