Recent changes to the FCC’s administration, among other things, has net neutrality and other Internet privacy/security/fairness protections under fire. Here is what’s going on and what they can do.
What Is Net Neutrality?
The foundation of net neutrality is the understanding that Internet service providers allow access to all domains of the Internet, at the same time, for the same price, and with the same bandwidth allotment. This means you can visit websites for work, for education, for pleasure, all with the same permissions.
You won’t be charged any more money for visiting Facebook than you are for visiting Gmail. You can go to Vimeo and watch videos with the same bandwidth that you get with YouTube. You can search for CenturyLink pricing options while you’re using Comcast Internet service.
It’s the freedom to do what you want on the Internet as long as it’s within the scope of federal law. (For an obvious example, you can’t go around trying to steal the identities of other individuals).
How Is Net Neutrality Under Threat?
A few factors contribute to the detriment of net neutrality, but the most prominent one boils down to censorship. The Internet is the world’s largest resource for information – facts, opinions, instructions, media, pretty much every variation of knowledge expansion you can fathom. However, the FCC’s newest chairman is looking to eradicate the unfettered condition of the Internet in the United States. His goals are to limit the exposure citizens and consumers have on the internet.
This could mean only certain news and educational outlets can be accessed on the internet, that websites deemed “unsavory” could be blacklisted, and that freedom of speech (for better or worse) could be scrubbed clean off of the world wide web. If this sounds like an extreme circumstance, it is, but that doesn’t make it an impossible reality to achieve for a new administration with all the control required to make these changes.
Another trait of net neutrality threatened by recent changes to the FCC is affordability. Internet service providers could charge consumers a premium to visit certain websites. Throttling could become more commonplace and even be based upon which websites you visit, where in the country you’re located, or based upon the personal information you provide when you sign up with an Internet service. They could also increase their prices for their own services, all the while monopolizing the market by ensuring only one or two service providers give the entire nation access to the Internet.
The days of visiting Wikipedia for free could easily meet their end, while your ability to choose between which online retailers you want to shop at could evolve from “Amazon, eBay, or Walmart?” to “Do I shop at the only online retailer I have access to or go visit physical stores?”
The FCC classifies the internet as a utility. This somewhat makes sense considering it is a service you pay to have access to regularly, such as electricity or gas. However, using that argument as a basis for a stricter control on the type of usage you can get out of the Internet (such as a community’s water usage during a drought) is a bit erroneous.
The Internet is not a resource that is limited that when used in excess can cause harm to other individuals or a community as a whole (such as in the water-during-drought example). It is more like electricity. You pay for what you use, and how you use that electricity cannot be dictated by the utility company or the United States government (as long as, again, you are not violating federal law with its usage).
What Can You Do to Prevent Net Neutering?
The way to help prevent a neutered Internet from becoming reality is to speak out against the idea. It may require more than just posting and sharing thoughts on the very same Internet under fire, though.
You may want to consider speaking to your Congress representative with a letter or phone call or even with a tweet voicing your support for net neutrality. Signing petitions on Change.org or other revered outlets can also lead to, indeed, making a change, or preventing a bothersome outcome. In a more impractical method, you could also boycott the larger Internet providers looking to reduce consumer access by going with a smaller provider or using cellular data from a company that isn’t prioritizing Internet censorship.
It’s a large-scale situation that requires noticeable responses from all parties affected if something is to be done. Sometimes the effort needed could be daunting, or we just won’t have the time or will to uphold our stance due to our own lives consuming our time and energy. Do remind yourself of one thing, though: complacency sends the implication that you are content with how things are going. Speaking out (even if in a mere tweet to your Congress representative) voices dissatisfaction for the predetermined path.