Net Neutrality Under Attack

The F.C.C. chairman has released a plan to undo the current net neutrality rules, allowing big companies to charge users more for internet content.

 

By Gabriel Arizon, Special to the Star

 

Internet users may be in trouble due to a new plan proposed by the Federal Communications Commission to repeal net neutrality regulations.

Chairman of the F.C.C. Ajit Pai proposed the plan back during the Obama administration, which will allow internet providers to increase the price users pay to view content while also slowing access to other sites and, in some cases, stopping access completely. The commission in which Republicans currently hold the majority will vote on the plan Dec. 14.  

“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet,” Mr. Pai said in a statement. “Instead, the F.C.C. will simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them.”

Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers must treat all online content equally without purposefully blocking or slowing access to certain websites, as well as not allowing companies to pay for preferential treatment.  

In 2015, the F.C.C. voted to regulate broadband internet service as a public utility, which established the legal foundation for the current rules of net neutrality. The new Trump-appointed chairman will reverse this decision completely if the vote passes.

Telecommunication monopolies such as AT&T and Verizon have fought against net neutrality, claiming that it goes against innovation and prevents them from offering customers a wider selection of services at different price points. Under the new plan, these companies would have the ability to block legal content. Both AT&T and Verizon have expressed no interest in blocking such content; however, they do intend to experiment with paid prioritization.

Senior Vice President of Comcast David L Cohen commented in a blog post, “we do not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content – and we will be transparent with our customers about these policies.”

Internet giants like Facebook and Google have said that the repeal would allow telecommunication companies to charge customers more for online websites and make themselves gatekeepers to information.  

Small online businesses support net neutrality, and feel the repeal of the act would actually hurt innovation.

Only the top bracket of independent companies such as Netflix would be able to stay afloat, while other companies could potentially go out of business.

Commissioner of the F.C.C. Jessica Rosenworcel [D] said, “[the proposal] hands broadband providers the power to decide what voices to amplify, which sites we can visit, what connections we can make, and what communities we create… It throttles access, stalls opportunity, and censors content.”

With the commission controlled by a Republican majority, many expect Pai’s new plan to pass. If that happens, then the future of net neutrality may be taken to court.

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