R.I.P. Net Neutrality: Life After Its Death

BY ALEX PEREZ

It has been over a month since the FCC voted to put an end to the net neutrality rules that the FCC put in place two years ago. With many people speculating on what would happen without the net neutrality rules before the vote, the nation is now watching and waiting to see if those speculations come true. On December 14, 2017, The FCC voted along party lines to repeal the Open Internet Order of 2015 in a vote of 3-2.

According to a July, 2017, poll conducted by Freedman Consulting, LLC, most Americans wanted to keep the existing net neutrality regulations. In addition, the FCC’s commenting system received millions of comments supporting net neutrality. Despite these revelations, the FCC went through with its plans to deregulate the Internet.

The main arguments against this change are that Internet Service Providers (ISPs), like Comcast or Verizon, will offer paid prioritization which would essentially set up “fast and slow lanes” favoring those who can pay more and hurt those who cannot.

However, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai dismissed these arguments as merely “hypothetical scenarios.” A CBS story on the absence of net neutrality revealed that many of the biggest ISP’s claim that they would not throttle or slow down Internet speeds, and consumers would not experience any major changes as a result of the repeal of net neutrality. Some ISPs, however, remained unclear as to what their future plans Included.

Despite this, many people are not convinced that these ISPs will keep their word. In the Informatics Department at FHSU, students learn about media convergence which relies heavily on the Internet. Any action by ISPs that would throttle or slow down speed for those who cannot pay, could have a huge impact on the future of these students. Jarin Moss, an Informatics student at FHSU, believes that since ISP’s have the ability to do what they want, it could create a “scary” situation for not only students but everyone who uses the Internet. Mark Griffin, the Assistant VP of Information Technology and CIO, also voiced his displeasure over the FCC’s ruling. He mentioned how he was “disappointed” and that by repealing the net neutrality rules, “it leaves open the possibility of charging more for various internet services, capabilities, etc.”

While some are worried about what ISP’s will do, members of Congress have taken the issue into their own hands. Democratic senators have taken legislative action under the Congressional Review Act to reverse the FCC’s decision on Internet regulation. The Washington Post reports that 50 senators are currently in support of the action to reverse the FCC’s decision. With every Democratic senator and one Republican senator, Susan Collins of Maine, on board, the resolution needs just one more Republican’s support in order for it to pass in the Senate.

While this action has plenty of support, it is very unlikely this motion will go any further. The resolution would need to also pass in the House of Representatives that has a Republican majority, and would then face President Trump, who voiced his support for the FCC’s decision. As a result, it is very likely that the House and President Trump would oppose the resolution.

With these obstacles in place, The Washington Post quoted Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) as saying that the resolution was mainly started to show that, “…Democrats are committed to fighting to keep the Internet from becoming the Wild West where ISPs are free to offer premium service to only the wealthiest customers while average consumers are left with far inferior options.”

Griffin said that he thought it was good that members of Congress are trying to reverse the FCC’s vote to end Net Neutrality.

For one thing, just keeping this in the public eye is a good thing,” said Griffin, “ISP’s are likely to move much slower towards offering various premium services when the public is watching them closely. And, if the public feels that putting the net neutrality rules back in place (at least in some form), then this will remain a political point for several more years, and may get overturned at some point.”

A poll conducted by Quartz, a digital news outlet, indicated that these changes will not be seen for years. The poll included responses from 20 industry experts and academics. Griffin agreed with this prediction saying that ISPs would wait in order to avoid any backlash. However, he is unsure how long it will be. The Quartz poll also revealed that a majority of the experts believed that ISPs would eventually block or slow down content, negatively impacting small businesses and startups, which is what many net neutrality advocates feared.

With all this speculation, no one can be certain of what will actually happen. Mark Griffin put it best when he said, “We’ll just have to see how all this plays out.”

 

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