Imagine it’s 11:58 PM. You’re surfing on the internet, perusing through Facebook, Twitter, and Cliffnotes while reading, “The Tempest.” Once you finish reading, you log back on to try to make sense of “The Tempest,” only to see that Cliffnotes has been blocked. A notification reads, “This content has been blocked by your internet service provider. Please contact your ISP for further information.”
You think to yourself, “Now, how on earth am I going to pass this quiz tomorrow?!”
This imaginary scenario may seem ridiculous but very soon, it may become a reality if Trump appointed- FCC chairman Pai gets his way. Under Pai’s leadership, the Federal Communications Commission has proposed, “returning to the longstanding light-touch regulatory framework for the internet and restoring the market-based policies necessary to preserve the future of Internet Freedom.” According to their statement on the Federal Communications Commission website, the Trump administration is seeking to undo Obama-era internet regulations that ensured that all Americans are in control of their internet experience.
According to Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, “Net neutrality is the First Amendment issue of our time.” Net Neutrality is the fundamental idea that internet service providers like AT&T, Spectrum, and Verizon should not be able to speed up, slow down or block any content, applications or websites you want to use.
Net Neutrality is the way that the internet has always worked. Two years ago, however, internet service providers sought to change that, leading to the Obama administration’s action to protect net neutrality. Millions of activists pressured the FCC to adopt historic Net Neutrality rules to keep the internet free and open.
On a party-line vote, the FCC applied 1930’s-era utility-style regulation (“Title II”) to the internet. Democrats were in favor. Republicans opposed it and seek to eliminate these regulations over the course of this and the upcoming year. Six months ago, according to savetheinternet.com, a proponent of net neutrality, the FCC voted to let Pai’s internet-killing plan move forward.
Without Net Neutrality, cable and phone companies could carve the internet into fast and slow lanes. An Internet Service Provider could slow down its competitors’ content or block political opinions it disagreed with.
In the age of Trump, this could have daunting consequences. Marginalized communities could possible feel the biggest impacts. Social movements that started on the open internet such as Black Lives Matter could die if companies like AT&T or Spectrum block content they don’t like. These ISPs could charge extra fees to the few content companies that could afford to pay for preferential treatment — relegating everyone else to a lower tier of service. This would destroy the open internet and the biggest losers would be the American people. Americans simply can not afford to lose this fight.