The Chieftain

The Chieftain

The Repeal of Net Neutrality

Julia Lomtey, Reporter

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The FCC or Federal Communications Commission, an independent U.S. government agency, voted 3-2 to repeal Net Neutrality, an internet principle that mandates that ISPs (Internet Service Providers) such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon treat all internet traffic equally. However, without net neutrality ISPs are able to toggle with what websites people are allowed to view and how quickly or slowly traffic reaches consumers on popular websites like Netflix and Facebook.

The FCC first proposed the repeal on November 21st last year, only two years after Net Neutrality was introduced and one year after it was approved by the Obama Administration.

According to the University of Maryland 83% of Americans do not support the decision to repeal Net Neutrality. World Cultures and U.S. History teacher Mr. Viney is part of this 83%. He describes what he believes the future of education and business will be without net neutrality with one word: “scary”.

“We begin to go down a very dangerous and problematic path once we begin to blatantly go against what the American people want,” Mr. Viney argues. “When you talk about education what becomes most problematic is answering this: Where are we getting our information from, most importantly, and what information will we be allowed to have access to? In this case this unfortunately contradicts the principles that America was founded upon, [such as] majority rules, [and] the will of the people.”

Many schools around the country have taken a more digital approach to education, Piscataway High School being one of them. With the use of PARCC in standardized testing, and the computers that are available to every student in every class, a majority of the staff and students at PHS maintain that the internet has been an integral part of school and student life for years.

“For the longest time I think most students felt like you [only] did school,” says Mr. Lojko, an English teacher here at PHS. “You came here, you learned some ideas, and then you left and there was a whole world out there and it was hard for them to make that connection. Students I think feel much more apart of the world today and I think for teachers its about helping students navigate and interact with the world around them instead of just giving them skills and passing down ideas.”

Some Americans do however support the decision, the most prominent of them being Ajit Pai, the newly infamous chairman of the FCC whose final vote was responsible for mobilizing the repeal of Net Neutrality. He along with Mr. Michaels, a business finance teacher at Piscataway High School argue that the panic over the repeal isn’t needed– at least for now.

“Panic implies there’s an emergency. I don’t think we have an emergency– not yet.” says Mr. Michaels. Like a lot of tools technology can be a very good thing, [but] it can also be used inappropriately. It can be an unbelievably good learning tool or a huge distraction and I think students struggle with knowing where that line is.”

On the notion that Net Neutrality serves a positive purpose, Ajit Pai and the members of the FCC who had a say in the vote maintain that their purpose for repealing Net Neutrality is to promote competition between businesses, particularly big businesses that rely heavily on the internet’s services.

In his statement regarding the repeal on December 14 last year Pai himself states, “Following today’s vote, Americans will still be able to access the websites they want to visit. They will still be able to enjoy the services they want to enjoy. There will still be cops on the beat guarding a free and open Internet. This is the way things were prior to 2015, and this is the way they will be once again.”

However, many people beg to differ. The lack of Net Neutrality will bring a great advantage to large content providers, such as Netflix and Google who easily could afford to pay to have certain content available to consumers. This means that small start-ups will struggle to do the same, for they won’t be capable of paying to have their content available at all times. This exclusivity is what worries people, Mr. Michaels included.

“The whole prospect of Net Neutrality is equal [and] fair access to the internet, which is not a luxury anymore, it’s a part of our lives.” Mr. Michaels asserts. “And the prevailing thought with the repeal of net neutrality [is] that small start-ups won’t be able to afford to compete with the large companies. I’m more worried for the people, and the customers, and the areas of the country that don’t have choice, [where] there is only one provider. That provider could pretty much do anything– they’re the only choice.”

The curation of online petitions and the opposition from government and even state officials remain the only hope for those who are pro-Net Neutrality. As of now, every Democrat and one Republican of the Senate has pledged to help undo the repeal of Net Neutrality and a reported 20 or more states have filed lawsuits against the FCC because of the decision.

Mr. Lojko, an English teacher at PHS gives his take on the repeal, stating, “I think in some ways it is anti-American. It benefits the biggest businesses the most, and they’re the ones who wield the most power and have the most effect over government policy. The American spirit is for small businesses and for entrepreneurship, and to stimulate new ideas and to have competition, and I think that this ultimately hurts that.”

Although the FCC has issued many statements regarding the repeal, the fate of the internet still remains uncertain. As of now, Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T have all stepped forward and stated that they will refrain from manipulating the speed of the content that people want.

Protect Net Neutrality Rally San Francisco (Picture by Credo Action Wikimedia Commons)

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The Repeal of Net Neutrality