FCC repeals net neutrality

Anna Fiorino, Staff Writer

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to abolish net neutrality on Dec.14.

The rule was adopted in 2015 under the Obama administration. According to Steve Lohr from The New York Times, “the goal [of net neutrality] was to adapt regulations in such a way as to acknowledge the essential role of high-speed internet access as a gateway to modern communication, information, entertainment and economic opportunity. So the F.C.C. opted to regulate broadband service as a utility — making the internet the digital equivalent of electricity and the telephone.”

In other words, net neutrality is the legal requirement that internet service providers must treat all internet data as the same, regardless of its kind, source, or destination. Broadband network providers must be completely detached from the information being sent over their networks. More importantly, net neutrality gives Americans equal access to all content available online at the same speeds. No information is prioritized; this maximizes the Internet’s efficiency and utility to the general public.

The Trump administration contends that unregulated business will incentivize innovation, improve investment in broadband infrastructure and, in turn, help the American economy.

“The internet is the greatest free-market innovation in history,” said FCC chairman Ajit Pai in a speech. “What is responsible for the phenomenal development of the Internet? It certainly wasn’t heavy-handed government regulation. Quite to the contrary: At the dawn of the commercial Internet, President Clinton and a Republican Congress agreed that it would be the policy of the United States ‘to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet . . . unfettered by Federal or State regulation.’”

According to the Washington Post, “Former Democratic FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, who drafted the 2015 net neutrality rules, called Tuesday’s move ‘tragic.’ ‘The job of the FCC is to represent the consumer,’ he said in an interview. ‘Tragically, this decision is only for the benefit of the largely monopoly services that deliver the Internet to the consumer.’”

So, what does the net neutrality repeal mean for us? Our internet service providers are allowed to slow down connections, charge us fees for streaming, and increase costs for other services. They have the option to prioritize their own content and censor websites (or news platforms) that don’t match their political agenda.

Because Americans consume the vast majority of their information digitally, this legal reality is particularly unsettling. Dismantling net neutrality regulations could have serious implications. A byproduct of net neutrality’s abolishment is the regulation of online information. This regulation has the potential to engender a new type of discrimination (based on the type of service you can afford) and ultimately, a socioeconomic information gap. Privatizing information diminishes the value of public information, it’s accessibility, and our accountability.

In response to the vote, Capitol Hill has called for federal legislation to re-establish rules.