The internet is under attack.
On Nov. 21, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai urged his colleagues on the FCC to vote to roll back the Obama administration’s Open Internet Order.
Enacted under former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, the Open Internet Order is a vital law protecting net neutrality.
Designed to prevent telecommunication conglomerates from swindling consumers with user-hostile practices such as throttling data speeds and deprioritizing services that compete with their own, the order works to protect consumers and the open web.
But it doesn’t seem as if Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon Communications, cares, as he believes the government shouldn’t micromanage the internet, according to a statement he gave to reporters this month.
And given that Republican appointees make up the majority of the FCC, his proposal is likely to pass when they vote on Dec. 14.
What does that mean for you?
Under the Open Internet Order, broadband service providers such as Cox and Comcast have been classified as Title II common carriers. Essentially, that means they are prohibited from setting up “fast lanes” that would offer faster data speeds to some services and websites that pay premiums over others that don’t.
Pai is proposing a laissez-faire form of governance. In an opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal on Nov. 21, Pai said the FCC “simply would require internet service providers to be transparent so that consumers can buy the plan that’s best for them.”
Maybe in theory Pai’s argument works, but it “simply” doesn’t hold up when you take into account the stagnant broadband marketplace. Fifty-one percent of Americans only have one choice for their broadband service provider, according to a 2016 FCC broadband service report.
Because there is a lack of competition, nothing will prevent these mega-broadband service providers from implementing anti-open internet practices, such as charging an additional $15 a month on a user’s internet bill so they can access services such as Netflix or Twitter. They will have to pay, as they most likely cannot switch to a different provider.
The rollback will affect members of the FSU community as well.
The University may have to decide if it wants to pay additional costs to access some internet services essential to students’ academics. Who is to say that broadband service providers won’t charge schools premium prices to access services such as Blackboard and MyMathLab? University costs will rise and students will most likely see that reflected in their tuition and fees.
As Americans, we are given the right to voice our opinions about our government’s choices, especially when it comes to matters of hindering something as integral to free speech as the open web.
Dominant corporate entities shouldn’t be the gatekeepers of information access. Newspapers and magazines are protected by the First Amendment. The internet should be as well.
It is an essential utility the majority of Americans use every day – whether you’re a small business owner sending an email with the weekly schedule, two friends connecting for the first time on Facebook or a student submitting an online final seconds before the midnight deadline.
If you support net neutrality, go to battleforthenet.com. Urge congressional representatives to come out against the net neutrality rollback.
Let’s keep the internet open and fair.