By Rachel Goryachkovskiy ’18
Think about going on Youtube or Instagram and being stopped by that dreaded buffering sign. An instance like this is relatively annoying when it happens occasionally; but what if it were to happen all the time? This is one of the many reasons why net neutrality is so vital.
To understand the importance of net neutrality, let’s first consider the definition: net neutrality is defined as the principle that internet service providers should enable access
to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.
Think about it like this: you go home after school and decide to turn on Netflix to watch Shrek the Musical for the 25th consecutive time as you finish your AP Government outline. Or you press the play button and surf the web for answers to your Algebra worksheet. A typical day right? Well, let’s change the scenario a bit; you come home and open up Google and wait for the homepage to load, and by the time you see the colorful letters of the Google template, you’ve already finished War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
In the simplest of terms, net neutrality is the equal treatment of the abyss we call the internet, essentially a hub of endless content open for the public to use how they please,
as long as it is legal. However, without this regulatory system, companies may be able to decide for you what is appropriate to use or see. So not only are you waiting ages to do trivial everyday tasks, you may not be able to access these sites at all.
Whenever you use the internet for a variety of your daily activities, you create something called “traffic” – the flow of data across the internet – which is supposed to be shared equally by internet service providers. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, giving bigger corporations more power will lead companies to potentially decrease speed on the internet, therby creating a division referred to as “slow and fast lanes”. What this introduces is the concept of “paid prioritization,” a system where more monetarily expandable companies will be able to pay larger sums of money to get faster internet speeds that their less popular competitors won’t be able to match, which means that their patrons will be forced to pay larger fees as well. A common concern among advocates and ordinary people is that without the maintenance of a fair governing system, main internet carriers can potentially charge consumers extra fees for regular internet speeds that will be called “fast lanes,” which is a direct blow to a decade of the progress made on ensuring individual rights within the realm of the internet.
According to the New York Times (NYT), The Federal Communications Committee (FCC) held a vote on whether to repeal the 2015 decision that established net neutrality and strict regulations on major internet service providers like Verizon, on Thursday, December 14. However, according to an update by the NYT, the outcome looks even more grim than Sheldon in Big Bang Theory. Chairman of the committee, Ajit Pai, led the 3 – 2 vote to dismantle the momentous 2015 victory. The importance of the FCC’s nulification of Net Neutrality also extends to the loss of equality for smaller businesses that may not have the ability to provide their services since they’re outcompeted before they are even able to enter the market.
As students attending a public institution, we are some of the most affected individuals when it comes to this historic change; schools funded by the city are at a disadvantage when it comes to funding; therefore, if internet carriers start increasing fees for “average paced lanes,” educational establishments may be negatively impacted. Going onto websites like PupilPath, Google Classroom or DeltaMath will be difficult and so time consuming that using them will be impractical. The allowance for paid prioritization for companies more financially privileged companies can also be harmful to people physically; not adequately funded apps like Tracknshare, an app that allows for people suffering with debilitating conditions to keep track of their health, may no longer be able to use these applications.
Now that the FCC has voted to repeal net neutrality and has effectively eliminated the maintenance of a fair and free internet space, companies like AT&T can decide for
you what websites/apps/videos/photos you can view and use.
Goodbye to the days of using Webkinz and Netflix as procrastination tools to escape the prison that is AP work and say hello to plenty of classic books.