On Nov. 11th the Federal Communications Commission announced plans to remove the Internet’s Title II status, threatening the future of Net Neutrality.
Net Neutrality, the standard mode of operation ever since the Internet’s classification as a utility under Title II of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, represents the idea that all information on the Internet should be treated equally.
Earlier this month
, however, Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai announced plans to “repeal the heavy-handed Internet regulations.”
Chairman Pai, who was put in place by President Trump and is a former Verizon lawyer, has stated that the Internet’s current regulation is “burdensome.” Pai argues that current regulations treat the Internet like a “1930’s utility”, harming telecommunications businesses’ expansion. Pai believes that a “light touch” framework will be beneficial to consumers, as it will allow businesses to expand and invest in infrastructure.
While removing the Internet’s Title II Status may enable businesses to improve infrastructure, it is not clear such changes would be pro-consumer.
“The way [the Internet] is being regulated now I think is good,” said Austin Walti, co-owner of Pocket Techs, Inc., a local small business.
Walti operates the business with his brother and is satisfied with how he currently accesses the Internet. “If we can stay at this pace for a long while, I’d be really content with that,” stated Walti.
It appears, however, that the FCC is using the recent holiday as a chance to push its Net Neutrality repeal.
With the repeal established, Internet service providers may split their service into discrete packages, similar to how cable television is sold. Popular websites and services, such as Netflix and Facebook, could be bundled into premium packages, forcing customers to pay extra for access.
Internet service providers may also enact so called “fast lanes” and “slow lanes”.
Fast lanes, or the prioritization of one entity’s data over another’s, poses a problem to paying customers who expect a certain level of service. Slow lanes, or the slowing of a website or service, also have the potential to cause issues for competition and may open the door to conflicts of interest.
With the FCC’s proposed changes, Internet service providers may allow businesses to pay for service prioritization, possibly causing slowdowns for customers using a competitor’s service.
Internet service providers that also offer cable television or other forms of digital entertainment could slow down their competitors, resulting in limited or no connection for consumers.
Prior to Chairman Pai’s announcement of a Net Neutrality repeal, the FCC enabled the public to express their opinions regarding the issue, as it is the commission’s duty to represent the public’s best interest.
Yet questions remain unanswered as reports of deceased individuals posting to the FCC’s website have arisen.
“I checked my family’s records to see if they commented, because I know they didn’t, and my dad apparently commented, saying that he’s in favor of a repeal,” said student Ryan Parker, describing his own finding while browsing comments on the FCC’s website.
Parker, who believes some Internet service providers are employing impersonation techniques to provide faked support for Net Neutrality’s repeal, also maintains that education will be affected if the FCC’s plans are imposed.
“I feel like [education] would be harmed, because things like Khan Academy would be charged extra to provide premium packets to get better Internet speeds,” stated Parker.
While many are concerned for the future of the Internet, websites such as savetheinternet.com and battleforthenet.com have made it their mission to spread the word about the FCC’s plan of action. These sites urge viewers to call Congress and ask for the FCC’s plans to be halted.
Groups fighting against the FCC’s proposed plan are organizing protests across the country.