ZU Magazine is a publication of ZU Media. The following is an article from Issue 5: Revolution.
ZU Magazine Managing Editor | Chloe’ Bagley
In December of 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to dismantle their Net Neutrality Rules established two years prior. The internet community responded in an uproar. Internet-based companies spoke out against the ruling, dozens of famous YouTubers used their platforms to share their concerns and organizations created public petitions to reverse the ruling.
Net neutrality means equal access to all internet content, losing this freedom with the dismantling of the 2015 Net Neutrality Rules would be revolutionary in our online world. Here’s what that means:
1. The FCC Voted and Net Neutrality Is Out
When the FCC voted to reconsider the rules, internet service providers (ISPs) are now allowed to control internet content in ways that were previously banned.
According to Free Press, one of the many organizations fighting for net neutrality, the biggest changes are as follows.
First, broadband providers will now be able to block any lawful content from competitors or applications with differing political views from being accessed through their coverage.
Second, broadband providers can slow down any lawful content or applications from reaching users, also known as “throttling.” More specifically, this second aspect will allow providers to throttle content based on who created it, where it’s going and whether or not the content supports a competitor of the provider.
Third, providers will be able to charge content creators in order to favor their websites, also known as creating a “fast lane” and “slow lane” within the internet.
Net neutrality keeps the nation’s phone and cable companies from filtering search engines. Without net neutrality, companies like AT&T and Verizon have authority over what we’re able to see.
They have free reign to slow down, speed up or completely block websites or applications. In the US, we expect to have access to anything and everything on the internet; without net neutrality, we lose that freedom.
2. The Internet and Social Justice
In 2014, former President Barack Obama expressed his support for an open internet. He said, “There are no toll roads on the information superhighway.”
Political movements and protests rely on a free and open internet to make themselves heard and to get organized. Without net neutrality, they could be blocked, throttled or required to pay for their messages to be heard. The voices of already marginalized communities could be lost amongst competition and pressure from large corporations.
3. Here’s How It Affects You
For the average person, this could look like smaller businesses or competitors to your provider being blocked from your internet searches without your knowledge. If your provider disagrees with a specific political opinion, certain publications and outlets could be blocked from your device, and smaller businesses and organizations may not show up in your searches or advertisements. Ultimately, the information will be filtered based off of your provider’s preferences.
Many companies who exist solely on the internet have expressed their concerns, and they’ve been backed by a few big businesses.
In a statement following the FCC’s ruling, Google said, “The internet should be competitive and open. That means no internet access provider should block or degrade internet traffic, nor should they sell ‘fast lanes’ that prioritize particular internet services over others.”
Facebook agreed, saying, “We are disappointed that the proposal announced today by the FCC fails to maintain the strong net neutrality protections that will ensure the internet remains open for everyone. We will work with all stakeholders committed to this principle.”
Net neutrality is something that we as Americans expect anytime we type something into Google or look something up on our news apps. If we lose our right to an open internet, many companies could lose their only platform and some communities could lose their voice.
Organizations such as Free Press have created public petitions and are making plans to sue the FCC. The changes have yet to take effect and the internet community hopes to enlist the help of the public in its fight for a free and open internet.