The Danger of Losing Net Neutrality
Full of funny memes, professional and amateur writers, social media, video streaming services, news, entertainment, and video games, the internet is a place with limitless potential where anyone can become famous. The ability for people to create creative content has been largely attributed to net neutrality, a principle that aims to keep the internet free and open. However, net neutrality, which allows unlimited access to the internet, is currently in danger of being repealed.
As a part of the net neutrality rules set up in 2015, the internet became a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. A simple way of putting it is if net neutrality is repealed, the Internet could possibly be no longer considered a public utility.
"I think whoever uses the Internet will be at a great disadvantage because you won't be able to access websites you usually go to," said Stephany Dlgadillo, a Woman Studies major at SMC. "If it does occur, it would not be good because people would have to pay in order to visit other websites they usually go to find information, so I think that it would not be okay."
Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs), like Verizon, AT&T and Time Warner Cable, should grant equal access to online content and apps regardless of the source without favoring particular websites. In other words, smaller websites would get the same amount of access to internet users as Netflix or Facebook.
In Feb. 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted in favor of strong net neutrality rules to keep the Internet open. These rules prevent companies from charging extra fees for high-quality streaming and other services. In other words, ISP's can’t charge extra to use Netflix or YouTube. In June 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia fully upheld the FCC’s net neutrality rules.
On Nov. 21, 2017, the FCC chairman Ajit Pai, made a proposal to repeal the current net neutrality rules. The FCC intends to go ahead with the planned vote on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, to repeal the net neutrality rules, despite outcries from Democrats and advocacy groups.
The Chief Technology Officer of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Raffi Krikorian, made an official statement, saying that "a free and open internet is critical to our democracy... we will keep fighting to make sure everyone can benefit from the power and potential of our nation’s technology."
If the vote to repeal net neutrality passes, ISPs could charge extra to use certain websites and could set up a pay-for-play system. In other words, ISPs can potentially slow down internet speeds for certain content if customers don't pay extra, or because the content may be competition to the ISP.
For many Santa Monica College students, the internet has become a necessity for everyday life. "I do consider the Internet a public good because some people do not have a phone and they cannot communicate, so the only thing they rely on is the Internet," said Edwin Barrera, a Graphic Design major at SMC. "Probably the reason why people rely on the Internet is because some people can not even afford a phone line."
If net neutrality is repealed on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, the open Internet will no longer be a public utility. This vote does not just impact a few individuals, but rather everyone who uses the Internet.