Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

A repeal of net neutrality would be disasterous for the Internet

<ase you have chosen the Carletonian as your main, and perhaps only, source of news on this topic, the principle behind net neutrality is this: the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that provide access to internet content should not have the right to control what content gets to you, or how fast it gets to you, based on the content itself.

This is the blocking, slowing down, and prioritizing that you may have heard about.

These rules become acutely relevant in certain scenarios, like how competing businesses cannot block or slow down another company’s content. In the world of net neutrality, AT&T cannot slow access or block access to content from Comcast.

In a world where Comcast owns (to name a few of many) Bravo, Hulu, NBC, the Weather Channel and Big Idea Entertainment, famous for producing Veggie Tales, allowing businesses to protect their business interests by blocking others’ content will affect users across the board and make the internet worse.

My main concern about net neutrality is not actually about sites like Google, YouTube, Netflix, Facebook or Instagram (the five of which are owned by three companies; see what I mean about the big media umbrellas?).

Small websites, like non-profits and independent blogs, will have no ability to pay for priority lanes. Websites not backed by huge companies are a necessary part of free speech today because they allow all voices to have the same ability to join the conversation.
In this era of high-speed internet connection, making a website slow is not just an inconvenience; it is a death sentence. Think about your visceral displeasure waiting for a YouTube video to load in 2007.

Now think about having to go back to that to read alternate points of view. Would you actually end up reading that article if you had to wait two minutes for it to load?

This kind of blocking will also raise access barriers to new, small companies, which often begin as free sites (Vine, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Tumblr all started off free, and most with no ads).

Many critics of the repeal have pointed out that these rules lead to higher costs for consumers, less innovation, less options, and a higher threshold for entry into the business.

These concerns are somewhat of a side concern to my more base anger at the implications of the repeal.

This is a clear example of a government (that claims to be by and for the people) blatantly ignoring the will of the people in favor of business interests.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asked for public opinion and then passed the repeal of net neutrality, despite the overwhelming majority of the public not supporting it.

This is a blatant example of business interests disregarding not just what is in the American public’s best interest, but also the basic function of a government agency in a democratic society: to create a society that reflects the will of the people.

The exact premise of a government for and by the people means it should better the lives of the majority, or because that is subjective, it should at least reflect their stated desires.

ISPs have claimed that “they’ve voluntarily committed to not blocking or slowing internet access, so explicit rules are unnecessary,” but this seems unconvincing from companies that have fought pretty hard to get these rules repealed, especially when these statements later quietly disappeared from their websites.

They claim it is about “whether or not the FCC should have the authority to regulate the internet,” but there are many previous examples of ISPs continually breaking net neutrality laws even when they were in place.

Before, at least, blocking, slowing, or blackmailing content providers had recourse. Why, if these companies slowed or blocked content when it was actually illegal, should we trust them not to now that there are no consequences or oversight?

This issue is complex and involves hundreds of thousands of small details I cannot address in this piece.

It is not as black and white as I may have presented it. Tim Wu, for example, who first used the term network neutrality, believes that this battle is not the one we should be fighting and that we should instead be lowering the power of ISPs by focusing on creating more competition for the hyper-consolidated ISP market.

The repeal of these rules will not change the internet instantaneously, but I seriously doubt they will not change the internet.
I fear that people will continue to view the internet as the same open-access source even after the full repeal of net neutrality, and any blocking, or slowing or prioritizing of content will become invisible to the public, who will continue to view the content they consume as the whole and unedited picture.

Currently there is a Senate bill that would stop the repeal of net neutrality using a Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn the FCC’s vote last month to scrap the 2015 regulations. You can still voice your opinions to your Senate representatives. This discussion is not yet over.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *