By GRACE WINFIELD
Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission chairman, recently issued his “Restoring Internet Freedom Order”, a plan that would overturn Obama-era regulations regarding net neutrality. Though party affiliation should not affect opinions on this matter, it affects everyone. On Dec. 14, the proposal will be voted upon by Commissioners, and every internet user should be concerned.
The internet contains an abundance of sources, where information and entertainment are provided in a number of seconds. The internet’s quick and reliable availability is undoubtedly what makes it so remarkable, but that is all about to change under Pai’s proposal threatening net neutrality.
Explained by Kelsey D. Atherton in a PopSci article, net neutrality “governs the behavior of Internet Service Providers…without neutrality, an ISP could instead dictate usage terms to both sites and to users.” ISPs are supposed to indiscriminately direct users to webpages, no matter what the request entails, (i.e. Netflix, Instagram, cooking blogs, anything you could ever want to access on the internet) which is why this decision is more personal than you may have thought.
According to the FCC’s website, Pai is a proud supporter of Internet Service Providers’ independent regulation, as well as broadband accessibility. These ISPs include telcos, such as Verizon and AT&T, and broadband providers such as Comcast and Charter. Interestingly enough, Pai previously worked for Verizon Communications Inc. as Associate General Counsel from 2001-2003. This is concerning because Pai’s past employment indicates a potential bias towards these providers. Pai was appointed Commissioner at the FCC by Barack Obama and was confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate in May 2012. As of January 2017, he has been designated Chairman by President Donald Trump.
Nelson Granados, a Forbes journalist who specializes in digital trending, predicted in March that within one year the net neutrality rules would be rolled back either fully or partially. Ajit Pai’s announcement only confirmed his assumptions. According to Granados, “the full rollback means the rules are scrapped in their totality, while the partial rollback takes away the classification of ISPs as utilities or common carriers.”
Ajit Pai’s “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” proposal is neither restoring or freeing. Repealing net neutrality provisions and reclassifying broadband providers from common carriers to information services gives providers the power to restrict internet access unless sites and consumers are willing to pay for their content to be readily accessible. If Verizon, for example, wants to block content, charge sites to be viewable on its network, or create paid fast lanes, the company is only accountable to provide its subscribers with a warning in their contract’s fine print.
The proposal’s motive can be described as a greedy, capitalistic idea that ensures ISPs success and profit through unfair consumer and company charges. To put it into perspective, with this vote’s passing, ISPs could charge customers more money to stream Netflix, and at the same time charge Netflix to ensure their video streaming is as fast as competitors, such as YouTube, Hulu, or Amazon. They could also block or slow down accessibility on different sites such as Instagram or personal blogs, as well as slowing video streaming services varying from Hulu to porn sites all depending on how much money the consumer and/or the company is willing to bribe the ISPs with.
The internet should not be involved in the free market system. Without government interference, ISPs could soon take control of the internet as we know it all by naming a price. Sure, capitalism gives us the liberty to produce and consume what we want rather than the government deciding for us; it limits the government from having total control on our lives. However, is corporate control, and corruption, any better? Capitalism divides society in lines of economic competency, which breeds into class division, automatically presenting concern amongst lower and middle-class patrons. For example, high school and college students are often expected to be able to access and provide a multitude of sources for their classes and coursework, though paying for these sites presents great conflict. Pai’s limit of internet resources for the intent of profit is shameful and only contributes to the commercialization of education that students already succumb to.
While the claim that less government control means more freedom in decision-making for consumers, where is the freedom in paying for access to information that is rightfully ours? Just as anyone is welcome to a library’s resources, anyone should be able to utilize the internet in whatever way they desire. The internet’s purpose is to transfer information across the web as quickly as possible, no matter the content, no matter the user.