The Battle to Unplug Internet Equality


Courtesy of Getty Images

People protest the repeal of net neutrality in Austin, Texas

Jordan Lee, Co-Photo Editor

For the past 13 years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has regulated and protected the Internet, utilizing the principle known today as net neutrality. However, the FCC’s 3-2 vote in favor of its nullification has introduced a new dynamic into how the internet functions.

Net neutrality is a set of laws regulating how Internet Service Providers (ISPs) charge online companies and websites and ensure that Internet users can view any content, applications and websites they wish. It allows the Internet to integrate a wide variety of websites, free of extra fees or restrictions.

“I think net neutrality is something that is supposed to equalize Internet providers and other websites,” sophomore Madison Lam said. “I think having that equality is better because it takes away the inequalities felt by the smaller companies who do not have a say or a voice.”

Current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, elected this year by President Trump, successfully repealed the current net neutrality rules in a vote on December 14.

Today’s action does not mark the ‘end of the Internet as we know it;’ rather it heralds in a new era of light regulation that will benefit consumers,” reported ISP Comcast vice president David Cohen to NBC News.

Without net neutrality, ISPs have the ability to limit what information consumers can view as well as charge extra fees to publicize certain sites. Bigger broadcast and entertainment companies like Netflix and Google will continue to operate normally, but smaller online businesses may be put in a “slow lane”.

“It’s not fair for the smaller people… you do need to have certain restrictions to make sure everybody has equal opportunity and chance, so if you create a small business online, you actually have a chance of succeeding and don’t get overrun by the big huge companies like Google,” freshman Ali Ghufari said.

Pai and other supporters of net neutrality’s eradication claim that large internet companies would benefit from free market competition.

“Consumers benefit most from competition, not preemptive regulation. Free markets have delivered more value to American consumers than highly regulated ones”, according to Pai’s FCC statement.

Though it is not perfectly clear yet, the repeal may have a significant impact on America’s digitally centered education system.

“I could certainly imagine that a lot of these different internet service providers want to continue to make a profit, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they end up charging more, and that would then put further financial burden on schools and school districts,” social studies teacher Heidi Martasian said.

Net neutrality’s repeal will change the way people utilize the internet, as well as how internet service providers charge customers. The future of internet regulation and equality is not yet certain, and only time will tell how these changes will affect our digital world.