As of December 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to implement a plan to end network neutrality, meaning technological companies could analyze and manipulate consumer data. The plan was proposed by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. 

Laura Romaniello / Art Director

Laura Romaniello / Art Director

But why would people want to do that? 

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), companies could use the newfound “freedom” to “interfere with speech that makes them look bad, block applications that compete with their own, degrade or block access to union sites during a labor conflict, or increase their profit by forcing developers to pay more to avoid having their data blocked or slowed down.”

All in all, some think it’s bad news.

On Wednesday, April 4, The Equinox sat down with New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen at KSC to learn more about her concerns and efforts on the net neutrality issue. 

Particularly, young people are more engaged on the internet than older generations are, and Shaheen said it’s not clear what the FCC’s ruling could mean. 

“I’m very worried that it undermines the free and open internet and it sets up the potential for some of the large players to require dedicated lanes and put in charges on using fast lanes versus slow lanes,” she said. “It could have a huge impact [on higher education, too,] because it could then mean that it costs more or it takes more time to download that content and either one creates an issue for higher ed and for students.”

KSC President Dr. Melinda Treadwell said there have been efforts made to structure college curriculums in a way to drive down the costs of education, but with this new ruling, there’s the potential of erasing those goals. 

“When I think about the internet, it’s the information access that’s helping transform what higher ed is, so we think about the value of an information age and the utility of the internet as the vehicle that this has the potential to significantly undermine access to information which is important,” Treadwell said. 

In New Hampshire, Shaheen said the issue has the largest potential to impact consumers, small businesses and people in rural areas. 

At a net neutrality round table discussion in Keene back in February, Shaheen said she met with people who were looking at what it might mean for small businesses. Participants pointed out that as much as a second or two delay on downloading can impact businesses and their ability to make money. 

However, there’s a possibility to overturn the FCC’s rule. 

The Congressional Review Act (CRA), Shaheen said, allows the Senate to overturn rules, and in order to do that with the net neutrality repeal, it would take 51 votes. 

Currently, there are 50 votes that would overturn the FCC’s ruling – 47 Democrats, two Independents and one Republican. 

“We only need one more person in order to have enough votes to actually overturn the FCC’s ruling and that’s our goal from now until we have to vote.” The official regulatory process begins April 23 and Shaheen said there should be a vote by mid-summer. 

“At this point, my efforts are focused on trying to get that one more vote to overturn,” she said. 

When it comes to support, Shaheen said approximately 26,000 people have weighed in via email, phone, etc., in support of net neutrality and there are zero opposed. 

Virtually, she said, nobody is supporting the FCC’s ruling and this is “never” seen. 

“I think this has huge potential to impact not just consumers, so students [and] universities, but also to impact the economy because if it puts small businesses at a disadvantage, if it puts rural parts of the state and country, which are already at a disadvantage, then the economic impacts of that are potentially huge.”

Shaheen encourages students to speak out, contact the Congressional Delegation, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, who Shaheen said has been silent on the issue, the New Hampshire Legislature on making the ruling and some individual state senators who have shown potential in changing their position on net neutrality. 

Senators from Colorado, Louisiana and Alaska have the potential to look at their position, she said. 

On another note, in looking at what the legislature is doing to restrain student voting on same-day registration law in New Hampshire for those who don’t live in Keene, Shaheen said she remains “very concerned” and hopes students are as well. 

“I think it’s very important for students to be able to vote where they live and go to school, and so I hope that students will make their voices heard on that issue as well.”

Jessica Ricard can be contacted at jricard@kscequinox.com