What does net neutrality mean?
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UPDATE: On Thursday, Dec. 14 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal the net neutrality laws that have been in place since 2015. Net neutrality prevents Internet providers like Verizon or Comcast from dictating the kinds of information you see online. For example, these Internet providers could choose to advertise their own products before you see anything else.
These laws have a direct impact on education. Public schools could potentially face challenges because these regulations were repealed. Teachers and students have access to a wide range of information and resources at their fingertips as a result of the Internet. But if providers choose to prioritize profit over information, public schools might see a change in how they get information. “I think the education gap will increase because the Internet is a major resource for many in and out of school,” senior ErrDaisha Floyd said.
But it’s important to keep in mind that these changes won’t be implemented immediately.
However, this repeal doesn’t only have negative consequences. These Obama-era regulations were put into effect in 2015, but before that, the Internet was still accessible. What repealing net neutrality really means is that the Internet will no longer be controlled by the federal government.
But not all students are convinced this repeal will be a good thing. “It will make it harder for students to obtain the same level of education that they get with net neutrality,” senior Mallika Joshi said. “I rely heavily on the Internet to help me with assignments, and I don’t usually rely on the outdated textbooks.”
In recent weeks, if you’ve logged onto social media you’ve heard about net neutrality. Some students aren’t happy that their vocal protests were not considered in the FCC’s vote. “The fact that five people were voting to represent the beliefs of the country literally negates America being a democracy,” Joshi said.
Despite the FCC’s vote, net neutrality laws are not lost forever. Congress still has to vote on this repeal, which will happen sometime in 2018. Until then, it’s possible to contact your representatives. “We must call our representatives and senators to tell them how we feel about net neutrality. We have to hold the government accountable,” Floyd said.
The term “net neutrality” has been circulating widely since Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai introduced his proposal to repeal laws ensuring equal access to the internet. These laws were put in place by the Obama administration and prevent internet service providers from charging extra for services or slowing down websites.
Net neutrality is defined as the idea that internet service providers must treat all internet data as the same regardless of its kind, source, or destination. Essentially, this means that internet providers such as Verizon and Comcast cannot prevent users from visiting certain apps or websites or cause them to load at slower speeds.
Discussion about net neutrality is nothing new. In 2007, the ISP Comcast was accused by subscribers of severely slowing down internet traffic that was using the file-sharing protocol known as BitTorrent. The Federal Communications Commission opened an investigation on Comcast. Comcast appealed to the Supreme Court, who ruled that the FCC did not have the authority to issue a cease-and-desist order.
If Pai’s proposal goes through, all internet users could potentially have to pay extra fees to use websites or streaming services such as Netflix. It could also spell trouble for small businesses, as companies would be able to pay internet providers to ensure their websites run faster than their competitors.
However, the reversal of net neutrality would not automatically result in any of these things. It would just mean that internet providers have the ability to block or slow down certain sites and charge extra fees without regulation from the government.
Raised over a decade ago, the question of how much the government should regulate broadband internet remains fraught with disagreement today as the FCC prepares to vote to replace current net neutrality laws on Dec. 14.