Weekly Feature

2017-12-20 / Editorials

Net neutrality must be fought for

With the Federal Communications Commission’s recent decision to scrap rules that placed regulations on internet service providers, the future of the single greatest technological innovation within the last century now sits inert in a cloud of uncertainty.

The rules that prevented internet service providers from dividing up what parts of the internet their customers could access based on price-tiered packages were reversed last week in a 3-2 vote led by Trump-appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

The win for incumbent telecommunication giants such as Spectrum, Verizon and Comcast reverses the FCC’s 2015 decision, which defined the internet as a public utility, not unlike water and electricity. These services are considered essential for the comfort of daily life, and therefore the federal government offers them certain protections from privatization. Yet, even given the FCC’s previous stance prior to last week’s vote, internet services and access to broadband remains a luxury in large swaths of the United States. Increasingly, this lack of access and competition has led to stagnated wages and depressed job opportunities for many rural and elderly citizens who lack the education necessary to fully use the internet’s resources even if they were given access to it.

For those who do have access, the monopolistic practices of the telecommunication giants have forced prices upward with little competition to give them an incentive to provide faster, more efficient services. According to the FCC’s own data, about 48 percent of Americans have just one option for home broadband access, and recent polling shows that more than 80 percent of Americans support net neutrality, according to a poll from the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation. At a time of heightened political polarization, what makes the issue of net neutrality a unified, bipartisan one? Critics of last week’s vote say that under the new rules, ISPs will now see to it that customers pay for faster tiers of internet, while charging content creators more to access those faster tiers. This will have a significantly detrimental effect for the next big app or streaming service.

The time is now to fight for an internet that is all-inclusive if it is to remain the catalyst for knowledge consumption in the 21st century. We communicate through the internet, allow it to keep track of our finances and store memories on it. It’s time to stop viewing it as a consumer product and begin to see it as the necessary utility it has become.

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