The vote to repeal net neutrality has teenagers fuming, and for valid reasons. A world of opportunities provided by the internet in its current state has been swept out from under us.
There is a feeling of powerlessness amongst teenagers. Even with contacting their local representatives, ultimately the decision came down to the Federal Communications Commission.
“I was really frustrated that I just have to sit here and watch as this all goes on, and there’s nothing I can do,” Genevieve Weinstein, 18, said.
On Dec. 14 the FCC voted 3 to 2 in favor of repealing net neutrality.
“I heard people in my math final talking about it minutes after the decision was announced,” Camila Aguilar, high school senior, said.
Net neutrality is the idea that internet service providers (I.S.P.s) must treat and distribute all data the same way, regardless of content. This includes blocking certain lawful websites or apps and controlling the speed of transmission based on content. In 2015, the United States supported net neutrality, however, the FCC now has a different view, according to the vote.
The possibilities as to what this means for the future are endless.
Many people fear that without net neutrality, I.S.P.s will adopt similar methods used in distributing cable. By creating packages of varying prices and content, I.S.P.s will have the power to pick and choose what websites we have access to.
“The FCC is basically trying to sabotage the biggest free speech platform in existence,” Katherine Sotelo, 17, said.
Sotelo touches on a large part of the internet that could now be disastrously altered: community. Any person with a Twitter or Instagram account has the power to make their voice heard across the world, not only informing people of what they had for lunch but reaching out to others in regards to social and political issues. The sense of community that the internet has created allows people to become informed and expand their minds to other point-of-views.
Is your freedom of speech really free when you have to pay for that right?
“My biggest fear is that we longer have a free internet. That we have to choose between a news package and a streaming package. That big corporations get to choose which websites we can use,” Aguilar said. “This isn’t the freedom that this country stands by.”
With paid internet packages, people and corporations can pay premiums for a fast lane. This is something that has been used as an argument in favor of the repeal, however, they neglect to include the rest of the population who will be using the slow lane.
Since the initial internet boom, the platform has become a necessity to how our world works and intertwined in innumerable aspects of it.
Whereas net neutrality makes the internet inclusive to any individual, despite their socio-economic class, packages form an economic hierarchy that did not previously exist. The repeal of net neutrality demonstrates a partiality towards the middle- to upper-class and negatively affects the lower-class.
As small businesses are not able to afford the premium package for necessary features of their business, they will crumble. In those ashes will rise the bigger business and corporations who can afford the best package, their competition left in the dust.
Entrepreneurs, freelance creators, online stores, and other types of small businesses will have an even greater barrier-to-entry that is entirely based on monetary funds, rather than talent and hard work.
What if the removal of net neutrality takes away the opportunity for the next Facebook or Uber?
More than anything, net neutrality allows for the greatest amount of internet-based opportunities for everyone.
“I’m angry and disappointed that this is [the FCC’s] definition of progress,” Sotelo said. “This is moving us steps backward.”
We no longer live in the world our parents did when they had to spend hours in a library, researching a topic. With Google, an infinite amount of knowledge is at our fingertips.
However, if Google is too expensive, we may return to the days of the dinosaurs. Those of us who are not wealthy, that is. For the upper-class, all that changes is the bill they pay to their internet service provider every month.
As previously stated, I.S.P.s will also have the power to control what website are offered in each package. This is nothing more than censorship.
“I’m scared it will become something akin to ‘1984,’” Weinstein said. “Everything is going to change. The way I do school work and future college assignments, my education, and my thinking style.”
When the content distributed to people is being chosen by others, people’s minds are shaped differently. No longer will they be able to research a topic and read both sides of the argument before making their own opinion.
The ability for a small child to Google why the sky is blue or how the leaves change color will be reserved only for families who can afford it. What was previously a given is now a luxury.
Why should the rich be more entitled to knowledge than the poor?
“Five people get to vote on something that will affect a whole nation,” Aguilar said. “How is that a democracy?”
Today’s teenagers have grown up in the age of the internet. They expected the world’s breadth of knowledge a click away, all for it to be swept away by a vote that will affect millions of people.
Yes, they have a right to be frustrated. After all, so much opportunity has been stripped from their bare hands, powerless in the face of the FCC.