Rumors about the repeal of net neutrality have been spreading like wildfire, and all rumors come with misconceptions. Some believe that this repeal will sweep social media off the face of the planet, yet some are unconcerned with the change, and some are even supportive. Regardless of how the internet will be effected and what your opinion on net neutrality is, it’s important to understand the true background behind this repeal, as well as what it means for you.
To begin with, what’s at the heart of the uproar? Net neutrality is a law that prohibits Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from slowing down, speeding up, or blocking any content a viewer wishes to access. The most popular ISPs include Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T. This policy is important for students because it means ISPs will provide you with impartial and equitable connection to a wide variety of content. Researching for a paper is easy because all information is equally accessible. All websites load at the same speed, and no pages are blocked from viewing.
Without net neutrality, an internet user’s ISP will be able to filter what websites they can easily access. Sources that are linked to the provider will load faster; ones that aren’t might be blocked or have subordinate quality and speed. ISPs may begin to charge websites for providing increased quality and speed, which puts small, non-profit organizations at risk. This problem is compounded as companies with larger coffers can pay to dominate the headlines. According to NEA Today, “Comcast merged with NBC Universal several years ago. So, if [a student] uses Comcast to access the Internet, he might be redirected to NBC Learn when he was trying to get PBS content.” This restricts students’ educational opportunity , and is only profitable to ISPs and their sponsors. A fair and free internet shouldn’t allow providers to limit or decide what their users can access, especially when they are promoting their paying sponsors, not trying to provide the best material.
What does this mean for AHS students and educators? The unfortunate result is that certain websites will lose accessibility and speed. If our school’s ISP does not support a source, chances are it will be difficult to access. This even extends to essential websites like Google Docs and Google Classroom.
Many teens are especially concerned with how this will affect their social media accounts. Users will have to pay for them in packages. While some people believe that this will be liberating for teens, forcing them to focus on the outside world, it also impairs the ability to stay in contact with friends and family.
Net neutrality was enacted on Thursday, February 26th, 2015 when the Federal Communications Commision (FCC) ruled in its favor. On Thursday, December 14, 2017, it was repealed. This decision will not go into effect for several months. However, its influences can already be seen. Some countries, such as Portugal, have already adopted the new policy. In addition, there are a few ISPs who claim they will not discriminate against any content, but nothing is insured. Because it gives providers power over what information is accessible to the public, a few protesters even believe that this repeal is a violation of First Amendment rights.
In recent years, the internet has been a place of neutrality, freedom, and unprecedented accessibility since its creation. Now, internet users will have information spoon-fed to them by corporations with the money to splash their headlines on our homepages, and make us pay for their communication tools. We are not merely headed back to a simpler, pre-2015 internet. We are headed into unknown territory, and the future of surfing the web ought to be a wild ride.