It’s hard to imagine what life would be like without internet access. You would not be able to fill out a job application, access any information not contained in a book, send or receive any e-mails or access any social media sites.
I think it is safe to say that we would all fall apart; I know I would. Losing internet access is not something commonly thought about by the people who already have it, but more people could be in danger of losing access if net neutrality disappears.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), net neutrality means that we are all equal in the internet’s eyes. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as Verizon, AT&T or Spectrum, cannot analyze your data and deny your computer access or slow your connection. For example, they could charge a fee to sites like Netflix in exchange for faster loading time for their videos.
Slow Netflix connections may not seem very consequential, however, think about the other applications that a lack of accountability for ISP’s could have.
A more pertinent example would be if an ISP held conservative values and wanted to promote the consumption of conservative news or prevent the consumption of liberal news, they could speed-up connections to those sites it agrees with and slow-down the connections to outlets it disagrees with or charge you more money to access them.
That example may become a reality if the Trump administration has its way. Trump’s chairman of The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, proposed an end to net neutrality, which would allow for ISPs to discriminate between users and websites.
Personally, I think the proposed disintegration of net neutrality is disgusting and we, as internet users, need to fight it as best we can.
We cannot sit back and think that this does not affect us because it undeniably does. Everyone who uses the internet will feel the consequences.
ABC News described what could happen if the FCC gets rid of net neutrality.
First, our services may not work as well unless we pay a special fee to use the “fast lane,” and services that already charge a fee may get more expensive. For example, if Netflix wanted to keep their videos loading quickly they might have to pay a fee to ISP’s, thus causing the price of a Netflix subscription to increase. In addition, small media outlets may not be able to pay the fee and because of that their content might load really slowly.
Perhaps slow enough to deter a user from waiting to see the results and turning to a different site to get their information. In the long-run, new or small companies and internet start-ups may have a harder time getting off the ground or be forced to shut down because they do not have the revenue to pay the ISPs to get their content to consumers.
These consequences could also impact the ever-growing socioeconomic divide.
If a low-income family or individual, such as a college student, cannot afford to pay for well-connected internet access a number of unfair things could happen to them. If they are in school they may not be able to complete their homework or access class materials. They would not be able to conduct online job searches or fill-out applications.
They would not be able to search for doctors on their health insurance plan. They would not be able to view comprehensive news unless they had access to a newspaper, which also costs money. It would be harder for them to keep in touch with friends or family that may be far away. It would be harder for them to attend events that are primarily organized or advertised online.
The drawbacks to the elimination of net neutrality are seemingly endless, while the benefits are practically nowhere to be seen. The only ones who have anything to gain from losing net neutrality are the large corporations who can afford to pay the ISPs for better service and the ISPs themselves who are getting all this extra revenue.
This should outrage every single person on this campus. If you are as angry about this proposal as I am, then join me in taking action to prevent it.
If we want to uphold net neutrality then we need to make our voices heard. Congress needs to know that this is not what the people want. We cannot trust the federal government to save us, we need to save ourselves. Tell your representatives to vote “No!” this December when the FCC proposal reaches the floor.
Abbygail Vasas can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org