Net Neutrality and the Future of the Internet
The future of the internet and the way we will be able to use it dominated political conversation during the final stretch of 2017. On December 14, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), led by the Republican party, voted to repeal Obama-era regulations set in place to keep internet service providers (ISPs) from asserting preference to some digital content providers over others. These regulations are otherwise known as net neutrality. Why is this a big deal?
The implementation of net neutrality keeps companies like Comcast and Verizon from altering internet speed or blocking access to certain websites altogether. The absence of net neutrality allows ISPs to charge content creators more money if they want to be a part of the faster delivery network. Small companies and upstarts who cannot afford to keep up with these charges will be left in the cold. Coupled with altered service, an internet with no neutrality gives ISPs the power to thwart access to content from their competitors and to interfere with the viral spread of political views with which the ISP may not agree. The dismantling of net neutrality could also force consumers to pay more for uninhibited access to the websites they want to visit, such as Google, YouTube and Netflix.
The FCC’s chairman and former Verizon lawyer, Ajit Pai, claims that a repeal in net neutrality will prevent the government from “micromanaging” the internet from here on out. Those in favor of the net neutrality repeal also argue that it will allow ISPs to compete in a free market to the benefit of consumers in the form of lower web package prices. On the other hand, those who want to maintain net neutrality insist that the growth of small business and social justice movements will be stifled due to the financial restrictions placed on the distribution of online content. Proponents of net neutrality worry that big business will impose their will on the lives of everyday people.
This is not the first time this battle over the internet has been waged. In both 2014 and 2015, Congress ruled in favor of net neutrality. As of now, Senate Democrats are preparing to reignite the issue for the 2018 midterm elections. According to CNN, Democrats have 40 co-sponsors for a resolution of disapproval, using the Congressional Review Act, in an attempt to overturn the repeal. As a resolution of disapproval needs 30 co-sponsors to move to the floor, the bill is guaranteed a procedural vote. If the bill passes through the House and Senate, it will be sent to the Executive Branch to be made final
Whether or not net neutrality is reinstated has yet to be determined. With our current Republican-led Congress, the chances of the repeal’s reversal are slim but possible. In the meantime, the conflict over how our internet is maintained continues.