The invention of the internet has really changed the world. It offers endless possibilities for learning and sharing. The internet has been a tool for people to freely communicate and exchange ideas all over the world.
You can be everything and anything on the internet -it’s the part of online life that makes it so great. Since the foundation of the internet, service providers have continued to value sites equally and force no censorship. No amount of money or power gave one site priority over another. Freedom is one of our defining principles of the United States, yet, the Trump administration has just successfully voted to take that right away. Net Neutrality was the legislation put in place that prohibited your internet service providers from censoring any content or giving site loading times any priority over another. It is a concept that we have taken for granted for years, but many people don’t realize that a decade long battle took place to assure these that net neutrality was protected. Advocates for a free internet fought for legal protections for free internet use since for some time now.
It wasn’t until 2015, however, until legislations were passed that required the internet within the United States to stay open and free -without any unwanted restrictions on who could share and who could access the content. Net Neutrality has become a trending topic in the United States, and not for good reason. Seemingly out of nowhere, this rule was put up for vote by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). On December 14, 2017, Net Neutrality protections were dismantled, meaning that internet providers no longer had any legal obligation to uphold a free internet. Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to eliminate Net Neutrality protections was met with the disapproval of millions of people, companies, and public-interest groups. People have expressed concern over the end of net neutrality. Yet, even with the overwhelming resistance of the public, it still was voted out.
What exactly does this mean for the future of our internet? Although we shouldn’t expect to see changes overnight, there are some things we may have to prepare for. Unfortunately, internet access in the United States may feel a lot more commercial. Providers like AT and Comcast can now decide what you get access to.
This can have a lot of consequences. Remember how an internet subscription allowed you access to the entire internet. Well, now it can potentially feel more like a cable package. They can force premium subscriptions to access certain sites, or even block the site entirely.
Imagine having to pay an extra fee to access Netflix or YouTube. Or being blocked entirely from accessing a site you need for school. The same internet that once allowed everyone an equal opportunity can now legally put others at a disadvantage if they don’t agree with fees.
The same internet that once leveled the playing field could be used to do the exact opposite. What information we are able to access easily can be determined solely by power and money of a company. It is easy to see where this can go wrong. Censorship is the last thing we need, especially in the political climate. This is not just a problem for people trying to enjoy internet access.
Without Net Neutrality, this can really hurt people trying to share their content. Millions of average people have found success on the internet. Whether we mean those Etsy artists, YouTube sensations, or even people raising money on crowdfunding sites. Their success is heavily dependent on the patrons who can access and support their content. Now imagine that their audience is limited to who is willing to pay for extra services. There is even the possibility that sites will have to pay a fee to get priority loading. This could have especially harsh consequences for underprivileged individuals to get their start -especially for minority groups that do not have the same amount of support as their peers.
Although these restrictions will be officially applied in the U.S., this can have obvious consequences for internet users overseas. There are a lot of people in the U.S. Many online stars overseas rely off of American audiences to stay active and successful. It can be difficult for them to even get into contact with the right people to keep in touch with their American viewers.
All is not lost quite yet, though. While the ruling has been made, there is still a chance to refute the changes before they are active. At times like this, it is important for us to take these matters into our own hands. No decision is set in stone and with enough resistance, we may be able to battle this ruling. Activists are urging people to contact measures of congress to overturn this and save net neutrality.