Protecting the Free Internet

February 2, 2018

In the year 2018, nearly everything has been in some way been affected by the wide-reaching influence of the internet. From social media to news outlets to entertainment and more, arguably nothing is not in some way connected to the free and universal internet. With the internet having such a ubiquitous presence in society, it would be hard to imagine a large-scale change occurring to it anytime soon. However, one of the largest changes to the internet in its history is imminent. The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, an independent agency established to regulate interstate communications, is considering a complete upheaval of government regulation of internet service providers, or ISPs. These changes will allow ISPs to speed up or slow down content of their choice, potentially putting an end to an equal, untainted internet. Net Neutrality must remain a part of government law because of its protection of new companies, varied content, and free speech.

The first reason Net Neutrality must be preserved is that it allows new companies fair access to interact with its consumers via the internet. Without it, ISPs will gain the ability to force the companies it serves to pay for fast internet. For example, companies like Amazon with money to burn can pay their way to the top of the food chain, giving their website fast internet. Meanwhile, startups struggling to make a profit who can’t afford such a luxury will suffer from slower speeds. Situations like this could prevent the next big company from ever taking it off the ground. According to the Internet Association, the amount of telecom patent applications, a metric reflecting innovation, has gone up 58.4% in the first two years of Net Neutrality’s implementation, showing that it truly works when it comes to protecting start-up businesses. Who knows what potentially society-changing product or service could be shot down in its infancy with these types of lax regulations? Counterintuitively, more government interference in the way of Net Neutrality regulations could protect the capitalistic principles America was built on. Thus, Net Neutrality must not be voted out of law by the FCC because of its tremendous importance to the fair economic model on which this country thrives.

Along the same lines, Net Neutrality must remain because it allows for varied content on the internet. Many ISPs have sister companies or affiliates who work in television, news, or other entertainment services. Removal of Net Neutrality, as with start-up companies, could mean preferential selection of content speed by ISPs. Services like Netflix or Youtube who rely completely on streaming and the internet could see a great decrease in speed in efforts to direct consumers to the entertainment provided by ISPs. Furthermore, without making a profit in mind, service providers can shut their users off to content they don’t like. For example, a far-right CEO of an ISP could hinder internet performance of leftist media outlets like CNN. And finally, as with companies, ISPs can force entertainment services to pay hefty fees for fast service.

Finally, revoking Net Neutrality is a bad decision because it restricts free speech rights. One of the most basic principles upon which Americans live is the First Amendment, providing for freedom of speech, the press, religion, and other forms of expression. Giving ISPs free reign over their customers on the world’s most popular method of communication is limiting free speech. Now, it will be easy to systematically dim the voices of specific minorities or regions of people. Additionally, shutting users off to media outlets that oppose the ISPs’ views is a violation of the freedom of the press. Admittedly, these worst-case scenarios assume that ISPs will use their new power to its fullest potential. Moral company leaders will most likely continue to provide fair service to all. Even still, it is almost certain at least a few people with less of a conscience will take advantage of the laissez-faire government restrictions if Net Neutrality is voted out of law.

Furthermore, repealing Net Neutrality will almost definitely raise the price of internet for consumers. ISPs claim that the decision to decrease the FCC’s regulation of the internet will allow them to direct more attention towards poor or rural areas, providing better and more consistent internet connection to a more complete demographic. However, this is completely misleading. While this may be true, the price associated with internet will skyrocket for the typical user, forcing rural and poor consumers, many of which may be barely able to afford internet in the first place, to let go of their internet connection. According to The Hill, a poll showed that 83% of American voters are in favor of holding on the Net Neutrality. This clearly shows that ISPs are lobbying for this change not to provide better service to its customers, but to open the doors for more earnings at the expense of millions of Americans. The internet, a precious lifeline to many when it comes to communication and otherwise, should be a relatively cheap and accessible commodity. Repealing Net Neutrality will make it the opposite.

In summary, Net Neutrality must be preserved in order to protect start-up businesses, allow for access varied content, and maintain the First Amendment of the Constitution. Many have recognized this problem who social media outlets, knowing its potentially immediate consequences and overall urgency. In fact, according to Nutt Labs, the FCC’s total number of comments recorded about Net Neutrality has risen from 3.7 million in 2014 to 5.09 million in 2017, showing that the people of America care about this issue. However, mass media has done a very incomplete job of covering the issue. A once fiery opposition to repealing Net Neutrality has since subsided; those in favor of protecting the internet must persist with their efforts if they want to be successful.

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