Unless you’re a major online corporation, chances are high that your exposure to what Net Neutrality actually is started in 2017 when the American government introduced legislation to repeal it. Even if you’ve heard about this, you may not have a full understanding of what net neutrality is, or what it could mean for your future.
Net Neutrality is the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all data on the Internet the same and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, or usage. It also refers to legislation that protects the free web.
With net neutrality, all ISPs were charged the same despite the traffic to their sites or amount of bandwidth used. Those days are unfortunately fading quickly, but we haven’t lost the battle yet. To get a better understanding, let’s take a look at the history of Net Neutrality.
Net Neutrality: A Timeline
Dec. 21, 2010 – Under the Obama Administration, the FCC adopts the first Net Neutrality regulations, requiring ISPs to be transparent and not block or slow down users access to content.
June 1, 2014 – After the Federal Court repealed the original Net Neutrality regulations, the FCC is forced to open the topic up for public debate. With the help of John Oliver, host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, the FCC’s online comment system crashes when the host calls for internet users to flood the site with pleas to preserve Net Neutrality.
February 26, 2015 -The FCC approves a new set of Net Neutrality rules which classify broadband internet service as a public utility, meaning that is subject to government regulation similar to landline telephones.
November 8, 2016 – With the election of President Donald Trump, proponents of Net Neutrality prepare for an attack to the regulations.
January 23, 2017 – FCC Commissioner, Ajit Pai, is appointed Chairman. Pai makes no secret of the fact he plans to repeal Net Neutrality.
March 23, 2017 – The FCC repeals consumer protections (allowing consumer data to be sold to businesses). While technically not related to Net Neutrality, this sets a precedent proving that the FCC can place businesses’ profits before consumers needs or rights.
April 26, 2017 – Ajit Pai announces a proposal to repeal Net Neutrality. Pai releases a full proposal the following day, which includes measures calling for ISPs to require users to pay for certain websites.
December 14, 2017 – The FCC releases a final notice for the repeal of Net Neutrality.
Can We Save Net Neutrality?
The Congressional Review Act, passed in 1966, allows Congress to reverse any federal regulation by passing a joint resolution of disapproval within 60 legislative days of enactment. Simply put, this means that a majority in Congress can undo a ruling put forth by the Executive Branch as long as they act quickly enough. Ed Markey, a Democratic Senator from Massachusetts, tweeted on April 30, 2018 that enough signatures had been collected to petition the Senate to save Net Neutrality on May 9th.
Net Neutrality Today
Net Neutrality isn’t dead, yet. But if we allow it to die, the internet as we know it will change drastically.
Think about it this way.
Currently, a six lane freeway is open to all users. If the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) were to adopt policies similar to those that will be in place without Net Neutrality, commuters would be required to pay fees in order to use the faster lanes; not only that, but the FHA would be allowed to dictate when drivers were allowed to use the freeway, for how long, and how often.
Despite companies like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon claiming that their rate-hikes are a result of various cost increases (unrelated to the repeal of Net Neutrality), we can’t help but wonder if it’s more than a coincidence that since the beginning of 2018, all have raised their rates. Not to mention, on sites like Hulu and Spotify—whose revenue comes from consumers as well as advertisers—the number of advertisements aired per hour has increased.
What Can Individuals Do to Help Save Net Neutrality?
There are a few things you can do to help keep Net Neutrality around.
Importantly, if you are a US citizen or legal resident, contact your area’s congressperson and let them know you support Net Neutrality. You can contact them by phone, email, even snail-mail. Any attempt to contact them shows them what their voters want. Battle for the Net makes it easy for you to find and contact your representative. The site also breaks down this issue to the basics and explains the social movement of “going red” for Net Neutrality.
Those in favor of repealing Net Neutrality argue that tighter regulations translate into less investment in broadband services. This is their strongest argument, though representatives of large broadband companies, like Verizon, have said that current regulations (previous to the repeal) would not stall investments in their network. The general public may feel this issue won’t affect them in a major way, but as we have already seen, the pending repeal of Net Neutrality is already touching our lives.
The Upcoming Fight to Save Net Neutrality
On Wednesday, May 9, 2018, Democrats will petition the Senate to vote to save Net Neutrality.
If you want to do more to support Net Neutrality, you can start by boycotting these companies— or at least paying close attention to them.
You can also follow these related hashtags: #teamcable #stopteamcable
On the flip side, you can support these companies which advocate and benefit user rights and Net Neutrality.
Fight for Our future
And follow these related hashtags: #teaminternet #savenetneutrality
Join the Break the Internet movement to protest the repeal of Net Neutrality and ensure your voice is heard.