By Isaac Messinger | The Broadside (Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Toward the end of 2017, the Federal Communications Commission voted to decide the fate of a free and open use of the internet, otherwise known as net neutrality. The vote, which had been postponed from an earlier date due to a massive outrage against the FCC, ended 3-2 for the repeal of said rules.
Though the movement united both citizens and politicians across party lines, there remains a portion of the population that is uninvolved. So why does net neutrality matter?
To understand, one must first dive into what the phrase net neutrality means. Essentially, net neutrality is a blanket term for a set of guidelines that were, until recently, federally enforced law. These rules stated that any internet provider (Such as Comcast, TDS, Etc.) must treat all online traffic equally.
We asked, you answered
In an anonymous online survey of COCC students, we asked:
“What thoughts or opinions would you like to share about the issue of Net Neutrality?”
“I think net neutrality shouldnt be taken away from us, the government already monitors what we do 24/7. There is no reason to take away our rights and make us pay for websites to make them work.”
“Net neutrality didn’t evem exist in the first place until 2015. It’s only existed for a little over 2 years. It bothers me when every single issue in politics is heralded as the end of the world. This repeal could be bad or good but it’s definitely not worth everybody going insane.”
“I have mostly heard from people on social me- dia that they will not be able to use social media anymore without paying for it, which I’m pret- ty sure is not the case. This was something that was passed only a few years ago and I feel like the youth who are exaggerating about it don’t really have a firm grasp on the situation.”
This means that no matter the source, author, content or perspective of a given piece of data, it receives the same treatment as all other data on the web. Providers could not slow down certain websites, restrict traffic, or charge money for a given piece of media for any reason, under threat of investigation and punitive measures.
The implications of this are enormous: without net neutrality, providers have the ability block news or news sites that don’t align with certain views. Corporations could pay to have data made more visible, or potentially pay to have data made less visible.
The concept of fairness and honesty in online business and journalism could potentially be obliterated, leaving us in a market where small businesses are completely unable to compete with large companies that can pay vast sums to prioritize their online data.
For example, imagine that a small blog publishes an article detailing unfair treatment of Comcast employees. Not only will the article be buried under a stream of content that has been boosted to the top of search engines, but should Comcast see the article and decide they don’t like it, they can simply blacklist it from being viewed by anyone with internet service provided by them. Now apply the outcome of that scenario to any number of possible situations, and you get the idea.
So how did the FCC manage to follow through with something so divisive despite a public outcry involving millions? That is the question being asked by many of Americans right now. According to a recent survey of Central Oregon Community College students, nearly 90 percent of them claimed to have at least a vague awareness of the issue, mostly due to the presence the topic has had on social media recently.
When sharing their thoughts, students skewed toward apathy, with one writing “I’m curious to see how much it would actually affect the general population and our use of the internet.”
In light of thoughts like this, it would seem that the actual ramifications of a heavily patrolled internet have been buried beneath the cries of those who think that they’ll no longer be able to use Instagram for free. This was echoed by some responses, which shared the idea that the loss of net neutrality is being blown up by a younger generation that is only concerned with the demise of social media.
The problem is a potential destruction of free speech and press in the digital realm and arguably aviolation a constitutional right that is relevant to anyone who believes in free speech.
Some COCC student responses, such as the following one, touched on such themes: “What the new FCC head [Ajit Pai] is doing is for the companies rather than the actual customers and citizens of the U.S…is very wrong.”
In light of this, many states are moving to sue the FCC for both their violation of constitutional rights and decision to ignore several million letters and emails sent to the FCC before the vote took place.
On Jan. 22, Montana became the first state to reinstate net neutrality on an individual level, and others are following suit. If you are interested in staying updated on the the specifics, a quick internet search of the phrase should bring up the most recent news on the debate, which is sure to be around for a long time to come. ■