Column: Net neutrality is under attack … again

A new member of the FCC may put the sanctity of net neutrality at risk.

Hunter Gilbert is a freshman at MU. He is an opinion columnist who writes about rights and tech for The Maneater.

“Net neutrality: the principle that internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.”

This term and way to describe the internet was coined in 2003 by Tim Wu in a law article. The concept itself has been applied to the internet for a while, but it most commonly refers to a set of guidelines set up by the Federal Communications Commission.

Essentially, it argues that the internet as a whole is open and prevents internet service providers from blocking or "discriminating" against any legal website or form of online content. All data, whether it’s a stream of a favorite Netflix show to a laptop or a hardworking student emailing their professor, is treated the same. This may no longer be the case.

Donald Trump announced that Ajit Pai, a telecommunications lawyer, would be running the FCC. This is an incredibly bad decision for the average American and will more than likely have drastic consequences. Pai does not believe in the principles of net neutrality.

Under the previous presidential administration, the FCC, led by Tom Wheeler, passed the Open Internet Order, deciding “open and unfettered communications are essential to freedom of expression in the 21st century.” It highlighted the importance of broadband internet in the 21st century as well. Three tenants of what the future of broadband internet should be like were also expressed: “Broadband networks must be fast. Broadband networks must be fair. Broadband networks must be open.”

This ultimately banned three things:

Paid prioritization: “Fast lanes” will not divide the Internet into “haves” and “have-nots.”

2) Blocking: Consumers must get what they pay for — unfettered access to any lawful content on the Internet.

3) Throttling: Degrading access to legal content and services can have the same effect as blocking and will not be permitted.

In simple speak, an internet service provider cannot keep customers from going to Netflix or YouTube, and it cannot force a website to pay for different forms of treatment. This treatment would probably not affect the ISP’s own video services. The internet in its current form is classified as a utility, and this is what Pai is more than likely going to want to change.

He has reiterated that he intends to protect a free and open internet. But this is hard to truly believe since taking away the utility classification would likely go against the current pro-consumer treatment. Simply put, the classification remaining the same would actually help consumers; the internet as we know it has remained this way thanks to this treatment.

Title II, the classification, allows the government to regulate and keep tabs on how much ISPs can charge their customers. This protects us, though it hasn’t been enforced. What is concerning is that some ISPs, like the chairman from Dish Network, have voiced that they may challenge net neutrality under the new administration. Advocates of the current situation regarding net neutrality are worried about the possibilities of an FCC that favors ISPs over the citizens of this nation.

An open internet allows for citizens to conduct conversation and express free speech online. The rules of the internet and how it is governed should not be altered.

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