Net neutrality and the fight for the net

The internet has become a never-ending source of information due to technological advances. It’s reasonable to say that our knowledge is partially derived from Google searches and YouTube videos.

But imagine a world without it.

The ability to access the internet freely, aside from the monthly bill from your internet service provider (ISP), is a principle Americans have adopted and embraced ever since the inception of the World Wide Web.

This concept is known as net neutrality, which officially became an Obama-era law in 2015; it prohibits ISPs, such as Verizon and AT&T, from intentionally slowing down online traffic to competing websites that may offer a similar service that an ISP also provides. For example, AT&T may not prioritize their DirecTV Now streaming service over their competitor Netflix, and must treat them both as equals.

Whether it’s watching physics videos on Khan Academy or watching iconic Vine videos on Twitter, net neutrality allows us to openly surf the web. However, this right is under attack by the Federal Communications Commission, which plans to gut this concept entirely.

On December 14, Ajit Pai, the chairman of the FCC, and four other unelected officials will decide the future of net neutrality, with the likely outcome being the end of net neutrality as we know it.  

Former President Barack Obama said in a White House-issued statement in 2014, “The FCC was chartered to promote competition, innovation, and investment in our networks. In service of that mission, there is no higher calling than protecting an open, accessible, and free Internet.”

If the FCC plans to terminate net neutrality, it would go against the founding ideals of their institution and the American Dream, and further add to the declining trust in government. In addition, it would undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on small businesses and startups, blogs, and – most importantly – students.

The reinforcement of net neutrality evens the playing field for the economically disadvantaged as it allows them to access valid, updated information that would otherwise be unavailable at school, notorious for providing outdated textbooks.

As Shant Sahakian wrote in an open letter to the Glendale News-Press, “The repeal [of net neutrality] would create a digital divide for students,” effectively limiting the exploration of the web and stifling the growth of knowledge. If you depend on the internet to do research on a physiology paper or Skype with friends to work on homework together, you’re going to feel this blow, hard – and for those who come from a low-income background, even harder.

Under the repeal of net neutrality, the internet will parallel cable TV, with separate packages that offer access to certain channels (in this case, websites). The internet will become a privilege, making it harder for students to access updated information, forcing us to rely on out-of-date textbooks and older data. It will discourage upward mobility and force people to conform while big corporations will continue to thrive.

“This is not the internet experience we know today. Americans should prevent the plan from becoming the law of the land,” said Jessica Rosenworcel, one of two FCC members who plan to vote in favor of net neutrality, in an Op-Ed piece for the Los Angeles Times.

Fight for freedom and join the battle for the net. Contact your representatives, petition the FCC, reach out: let it be known and add fuel to the fire!

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