The Blueprint

No More Net Neutrality: What are the implications?

photo by Sarah Tew

photo by Sarah Tew

by Mishal Khan, Staff Writer

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On December 14, 2017, The Federal Communications Committee (FCC) voted to repeal net neutrality. Net neutrality is, in simple words, the idea of having an open internet. Where all of the data, information, or content that one puts on the internet is treated equally. Anyone can view it and anyone has the freedom to use the internet as a platform to express their views or opinions. With net neutrality, no extra fees are charged for basic internet service (other than paying for a router).

It may be common knowledge now that the FCC has voted to repeal the Obama-era policy, but there have been many instances of widespread misinformation. The vast  majority of Americans are still unclear about the implications of this recent decision and are not sure what it may mean for them. Contrary to popular belief, this abrupt annulment of net neutrality does not spell the imminent doom of the internet. In fact, no literal consequences have solidified yet.

Many are afraid of being forced to pay extra fees for internet usage, and public outrage had immediately ensued after the decision. Celebrities, politicians, corporations and political groups are all protesting after the vote in defense of those who will be negatively affected. No actual fees have been put in place here in the United States, but we can see an example of the potential repercussions in a nation like Portugal. There, access to social media or web browsers requires paying a monthly fee for each individual package. These packages typically consist of select social media and shopping websites.

So what does this mean for you? Of course, it implies that you’ll be forced to pay for basic  internet usage, but there are also implications within MCPS that may surface because of the FCC’s new decision. Montgomery Country and other school districts may have to pay extra to get free internet in all schools, and possibly, free Wi-Fi may no longer be available at Springbrook and other schools.

Outside of school districts, small business should be concerned as well. As of right now, their main fear is that larger corporations will have an even bigger advantage in this already competitive market. Companies that are able to afford paying extra fees for easier internet access to their customers will end up thriving, while smaller startups will struggle to stay afloat. They might not get as many customers because not as many people can reach their site.

For example, let’s say you want to find the most inexpensive way to purchase a certain shirt. Larger companies such as H&M or Forever 21 may show up more frequently on your browser than other small window shops that sell the same clothes for a lower price. This will be simply because the more accessible companies are able to pay for certain internet services, thus giving them an unfair advantage over the competition. The ability of these small businesses to grow their customer base through the internet will be unjustly stifled.

The consequences will be devastating for communities and activist groups that rely on social media as well. Today more than ever, people of color, the LGBTQ community, indigenous peoples and religious minorities in the United States rely on the open internet to organize, access economic and educational opportunities, and to fight against systemic discrimination. Without this essential tool, thousands, if not millions, of Americans will be left powerless in a system that is already stacked against them

The subject of Net Neutrality is one that comes with many complex layers, both legal and technical, so many which is why many people decide not to become too invested in the issue. However, this has led to a lack of mobilization in the short time before the FCC voted on chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal. The decision to repeal net neutrality placed in the hands of 5 individuals, and although a Washington Post poll showed that over 80% of people opposed the decision, it was still passed. This brings into question the real validity of America’s unfailing trust in our democracy. 5 individuals were given the power to make a decision that an overwhelming majority of Americans were outspokenly against.

Although it may seem that all is lost, there are a handful of ways that net neutrality can be brought back. One way may be in the form of a Supreme Court judicial review decision, in which case, the highest court of the land may rule the FCC’s decision unconstitutional. Congress may also pass a Congressional Review Act, or a Resolution of Disapproval, which are tools at the disposal to overrule a decision or action by a federal agency. There is currently an ongoing petition to urge congress to take such an action, and it can be accessed with the following link: https://www.battleforthenet.com/. It’s important to remember that all of these potential solutions are optimistic, and that the FCC’s decision may in fact be upheld.

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No More Net Neutrality: What are the implications?