By Sarah Culmone, Opinion Writer
Net neutrality: if it hasn’t flooded your social media yet, it will. Net neutrality is the basic principle of the internet that guides people’s actions. Everyone is allowed to say what they want, where they want, and when they want. It might seem scary at first, because it gives the user complete freedom, but that is exactly why it was fought so hard for. Back in 2015, before Net Neutrality was in place, millions of activists pursued the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in hopes of convincing them to adopt it, leaving the internet wide open for the user. Luckily, these activists won. The long lasting result today is that every click we make is an open door to anything; websites, pictures, videos, articles, books, you name it, the internet has it.
I had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that there are actual rules to preserve people’s freedom on the internet when that is the very beauty of it. Now imagine the idea that someone is actually trying to wreck these rules. It may seem like a comical irony, but at the end of the day it could be considered an infringement on our individual rights.
Donald Trump’s FCC chair Ajit Pai has been working hard to abolish Net Neutrality. He created a plan that would require internet service providers to be straightforward about their policies and work practices. However, here is the catch; the consumer will then pay for the service plan that they prefer. Pai’s motive behind this is that he believes that internet providers will be more flexible, and can recycle the money from consumers in order to innovate and improve their network. What Pai fails to mention is that internet providers will then be able to practice whatever policies they want. This means that they can put attention on who they want, give prejudice news, and also control what websites people are allowed to access.
The absence of no blocking laws means that providers could also get rid of their competition. The solution for the user is to just use a different service, but that’s the trap. In reality, people usually have on average a choice of two internet services. Sure, they could pick the other option, but chances are they will run into the same problem, because each provider now has more free range to run how they want. In a sense, Pai hopes to steal the power from the user, and hand it to the internet provider.
The long-term problems caused by Ajit Pai’s plan would result in an ignorant society. People will have a difficult time hearing both sides of a story, therefore leaving them one-sided and possibly closed minded after being exposed to the same stance only so many times before they’re built to think that way. The providers will have an open opportunity to abuse their power and show the news only they approve of. In today’s society, it is already hard for people to hear both sides of a story, or one side that is not bias. If net neutrality is abolished, the burden to find the truth will be even more heavy and difficult on the user. The providers will also lose the pressure of competitors. Competition thrives on innovation, so without that extra push to be the best, there won’t be any improvements. Minorities and communities of color will also suffer.
When people take to the internet to get out a specific message of social justice, the reason they can do that is because of Net Neutrality. By limiting this, important messages will get blocked from being seen if a provider does not favor what they are saying. The policy being pushed by Pai was the same exact one that the United States followed in 1996. He wants to take us back to the same time when Independence Day was released, when the first Tickle Me Elmo was introduced, and when NASA launched the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. Yes, these were all great happenings, but to go back to this time concerning technology is the ultimate step backwards.
While this all might seem horrifying, the battle to keep net neutrality has not yet been lost. The response against Pai’s plan has been overwhelming. People all over are rushing to keep their internet rights and freedoms cemented. Petitions have been signed, and the protests have been in full force. The plan will be accepted or rejected by December 14. One can only hope that the power of the internet remains in the hands of the user.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, December 12th print edition.
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