December 14. A cold, bitter, winter evening. Excitement for the holiday season was on hold for many Americans as they awaited the decision—one that could change the course of history. Three to two. We lost three to two. Freedom lost three to two. The Internet’s death warrant was signed, three to two.
It was the night the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) voted to repeal net neutrality laws. Under the leadership of Ajit Pai, formerly of Verizon Wireless (because that isn't a conflict of interest at all), the FCC decided to repeal the rules that ensure a free and open Internet. The future looks dark, but not all hope is lost.
Internet service providers (ISPs) have been lobbying to retract Obama-era net neutrality laws, or laws that ensure that all websites, from Reddit to Wikipedia, are afforded the same speeds. ISPs are hungry to enter the untapped market of Internet speeds. Essentially, the repeal of net neutrality would allow ISPs to provide “fast lanes” to certain sites, which would come at an additional cost to either the company owning the site or the consumers themselves. ISPs would then intentionally slow the speeds of certain websites, ensuring that consumers would need to fork over even heavier payments for reliable Internet services, which are now seen as an essential part of modern life.
As heavy Internet users, teens will be one of the most affected groups. “If the Internet wasn’t around, I’d probably die,” said Boston Arts Academy freshman Frida S. “Repealing the laws won’t let people express themselves the way they choose and depending on who is making the regulations, a lot of information can be kept from people.”
However, it is not just young people who are concerned. Boston Business Journal managing editor David Harris feels that consumer protection will be lost without net neutrality. “Comcast or AT&T will come in and say ‘You’re watching too much Netflix, so it will be an extra $19.95 a month to have that content,’” he said. “It will really be a way to get rid of customer protection and potentially lead to abusing the consumer.”
Fortunately, net neutrality has become mainstream enough that instead of being decided by the FCC, it will be voted on in Congress. Now before you get too excited, or really excited at all, it is still likely that the law will be repealed by the House. Lately, tribal politics have rendered the American political system a mess of extremes, in which nothing can really be accomplished. It's like two toddlers arguing “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” to “Power Rangers”—no matter how rational one side is willing to be, the other side is going to plug their ears. In this case, the ear pluggers are the Republicans in Congress. While all congressional Democrats and several Republicans have pledged to vote in favor of net neutrality, it is unlikely the bill will make it through the House and the Senate. And even if it did, President Trump will likely veto it, as it is his goal to tear down Obama’s legacy. Suffice to say, the future does not look bright for net neutrality.
It is an uphill battle for sure. The odds may be against us, but this is something worth fighting for. There is still something you can do. Go to battleforthenet.com; you can defend your right to Google. In this time where our nation stands so divided, we need to stand together once and for all and tell these corporations that our freedoms are not to be trifled with. Do your part, make yourself heard, pass on the message that your glory days of internet freedom may be coming to an end, and we can be the spark that burns Ajit Pai’s corrupt ways to the ground.