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Internet freedom is being repealed

Illustration: Madalyn Drewno

The loss of net neutrality has harmful effects

In a country where the internet is the crux of nearly every human function, it is hard to believe that the government would strive to make the open internet so exclusive. On Dec. 14, the Federal Communication Commission

(FCC) under President Trump voted to do just that.

Net neutrality is the basic law that ensures that every person with internet access has the right to high-speed internet and is able to visit any website without any restrictions or extra charges. The end of net neutrality means that the data that people access, including websites, emails, videos, phone calls over Wi-Fi, and social networks can be analyzed and manipulated by broadband providers like AT&T, Comcast, CenturyLink, or Verizon, among others. Not only that, but these companies will also be able to slow down or block traffic to specific websites that they simply do not like, while increasing the speed for websites that they do “like”  (meaning, companies that can pay them the extra charge).

A real-life application of this issue, as illustrated by the ACLU on their website, is the menial task of ordering food. Without net neutrality, phone companies can interfere with phones calls in the form of bad connections or frequently dropped calls. This means that if someone orders pizza from Cosmo’s but their phone provider is being paid by Blackjack, the customer’s provider can interfere with the service of the call based on the company that is being called. People who want to access social media may have to start paying for services in “bundles” that would require a consumer to pay for a premium social media package in order to access those sites.

The most important aspect of the net neutrality rules in place is that internet service providers are required to give their consumers access to all content (that is legal) and on an equal basis. The laws of net neutrality are put in place to ensure everyone’s freedom to access the internet with impartiality.

The implications of ending net neutrality will impact everyone—some worse than others. A large concern with the end of net neutrality is the fact that those in more affluent households will have access to anything they need because they can afford it, leaving those in middle- and lower-class income brackets with the short end of the stick. Owners of small businesses are also concerned with how the repeal will impact them; many of them are anxious that big businesses and industry giants will be able to afford the extra charges and paid prioritization, leaving independent businesses in a one-sided situation.

This gross intrusion on privacy, freedom, and knowledge is a testament to the United States’ approach to the way it views and will treat those who do not revel in affluence. This means that free speech, freedom to access content without bias, and a leveled playing field for smaller businesses are all at risk. The repeal of net neutrality does not just speak to the issue of how society can access content they need for free or at low prices, but it speaks to what America as a country will become. ·

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