With a vote over net neutrality two days, the fate of a free internet is at stake

Illustration by Elaine Yang
Design Associate Editor

The last few weeks have been filled with discussion about net neutrality, yet the majority of the American public knows little about what these Internet regulations are, and what effect their repeal will have. Special interest groups have taken advantage of this collective ignorance to propel their agenda against the common good of the people. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) director Ajit Pai, a laissez-faire advocate and former Verizon attorney, pushed forward the deceptively named “Proposal to Restore Internet Freedom” last month, which is due for a vote on December 14th. If the vote passes (3 of the 5 commissioners are needed), Obama-era open internet regulations will likely be repealed.

Despite its name, the proposal will spell disaster for a fair and open Internet. Opponents of net neutrality criticize the regulations because they are reactionary and ineffective, as chairman Pai stated in an LA Times editorial, “There was no evidence of the dysfunction that regulatory proponents feared.” Before net neutrality, service providers used anti-competition tactics to block competing services such as Facetime unless customers paid for an upgrade, which demonstrates the falsehood of Pai’s claims.

The unregulated Internet before net neutrality that Pai is trying to restore was not a perfect “golden age” of rapid innovation. Rather, it is a “wild west” were Internet Service Provider (ISP)  monopolies are free to experiment with intolerable practices in order to extort consumers for ever-increasing profits. The FCC contests that complete deregulation will open up more diverse choices for consumers and unrestricted growth in the telecoms industry. The truth is, the Internet and its users can only be set free by sensible regulations, despite how illogical this may seem to diehard free-market supporters. Pro-consumer regulations prevent the exploitation of consumers by greedy ISPs, ensuring that they will not fall victim to unfairly priced service packages.

Although net neutrality rules are still in full effect, they can be quickly overturned following the vote on Thursday. Currently, the three Republican commissioners are expected to win the party-line vote. If the repeal passes, it is expected to be challenged in court. This new policy will go against the FCC’s stated goals of “protecting public interests” and “making networks work for everyone.” While the original regulations were not flawless, they did not allow restriction of access to content and other predatory and price-gouging strategies. This unreasonable deregulation is symptomatic of disconnected lawmakers in Washington who value lobbyist donations over public interests. It is a proposal made to oppress internet users by people who are too pompous and ignorant to look into the devastating effects that it will have on our future. If net neutrality is repealed, consumers will pay more for more limited service; deregulation will only serve to benefit monopolies.

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