By: Hannah Ramusevic
On December 14th, 2017, the Federal Communication Committee (FCC) voted to repeal net neutrality, or open access to the internet, leaving Americans everywhere shocked and confused. “Net neutrality” includes the rules for the Internet that allow us to look things up on Google, go internet shopping, and even receive the college admission emails every senior stresses about–for no extra costs. Under former Title II rules of the Telecommunications Act, no Internet Service Provider (ISP) could make websites and services cost more money than the rate you already pay for them. Now, without those rules, ISPs may be able to place different prices and rates on any internet service and website, making it harder for people to access the web (unless they can pay extra).
Net neutrality was at stake in 2015 as well. However, only minimal changes were made that year, and net neutrality ultimately remained the same. The changes set in 2015 made it illegal for ISPs to block specific websites, to slow down internet speeds, or to provide faster internet speeds for people who pay more and slower ones for those who do not pay as much. If the repeal ends up passing through Congress this year, these practices would all be legal. ISPs could start making anyone pay to access certain websites and certainly slow down internet speeds unless a premium is paid. Internet usage would split, being influenced by those few who can pay versus the majority of people who cannot afford paying premiums. These are all real fears, especially for small business owners, students, and anyone who does not make a lot of money, and these individuals have definitely tried to make their voices heard.
Weeks before the vote, people everywhere were fighting back with petitions and calls to Congress, making sure their voices were heard about why they wanted to keep the internet how it was. After the vote though, it was as if everyone forgot about net neutrality, even if they were fighting for it just hours before. People gave up. They stopped talking about the repeal as fast as it happened. Just because the FCC voted to repeal the old rules of net neutrality, it does not mean the repeal is in effect yet. So what happens now?
Although discussions of the topic have decreased in the past couple of months, the issue still brings heated debates to both the federal government and state governments, alike. According to New York Times reporter Cecilia Kang, lawsuits have been filed against the FCC by public interest groups such as Free Press and Public Knowledge. There are also four suits in the US Court of Appeals in the DC Circuit. These lawsuits were filed just mid-January, so the fight to save net neutrality is still very relevant.
If you feel like net neutrality is worth fighting for, there are a few things you can still do. You can call Congress and tell them what you think, or you can use the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) online form (www.aclu.org/action and click the link for net neutrality) to contact a representative. There are also many other petitions and websites that make it easy to access Congress and to help fight for the net. There are less than 60 legislative days left to get Congress to reverse the repeal, so if you believe in net neutrality, show your support and make your voice heard.