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The Carletonian

Preserving net neutrality helps keep the Internet democratic

<u should care deeply about net neutrality. It is one of the most important policies governing the internet, especially since such policies are few and far between (see: Facebook).

The trouble with net neutrality is that the term is thrown around quite a bit but isn’t necessarily self-descriptive.

I probably heard about net neutrality a dozen times before I decided to figure out what all the hubbub was about.

Net neutrality dictates that internet service providers (ISPs) such as AT&T and Comcast must treat all web content equally.

They may not serve certain sites faster than others or allow companies to pay to make their content load quicker. Presently, all sites load at rates determined by the strength of your internet connection and the quality of the infrastructure on which they are built.

However, without net neutrality, this would not be the case. If you’ve ever used inflight Wi-Fi when traveling, you can envision what this might be like.

Airlines restrict internet access on flights to specific sites until you pay for full internet access. On American Airlines, you can stream music from Apple Music without paying for Wi-Fi, but you may not stream from Spotify or other services until you pony up some cash.

Imagine a world in which this situation is the norm; if you wanted to switch from Apple Music to Spotify, you’d also have to accept a lower streaming quality.

As of now, ISPs have not implemented any major policies that would go against net neutrality, but this could change in the near future.

Regulations passed under the Obama Administration set basic principles of net neutrality and gave the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the authority to enforce them. The election of Trump, however, led to the appointment of Ajit Pai as chairman of the FCC.

Pai is a doofus. He, like many Republicans, is staunchly against net neutrality. Could this have something to do with the fact that he was formerly an executive at Verizon, one of the ISPs which he is tasked with regulating? Beats me!

For more insight into the genius of Pai, look no further than a 2017 video he released promoting the repeal of net neutrality. The video is titled “Ajit Pai Wants The Internet To Know You Can Still Harlem Shake After Net Neutrality,” and features a prominent Pizzagate conspiracy theorist.

Undoubtedly the most heinous part of this video is that the Harlem Shake hasn’t been cool since 2012. Please don’t watch it.

Pai’s official position is in support of a free and open internet, but he believes that the FCC should not be responsible for regulating ISPs. This sounds fine, but there is no other government agency that has the authority to enforce rules governing the internet.

The FCC does regulate ISPs but only in the context of anti-trust laws and other business-related considerations.

Opponents of net neutrality laws argue that the laws would constitute a government takeover of the internet. This is completely false and very misleading.

First, net neutrality laws would provide the government with no additional authority to control any aspect of the internet.

It would, however, prevent ISPs from doing that which net neutrality’s detractors are supposedly worried about.

Second, the idea that these laws would allow the government to take over the internet suggests that ISPs are the internet, which is false. The internet is a global entity that ISPs provide access to.

Most people who are against net neutrality legislation will tell you that they support the idea of net neutrality but do not believe it is the FCC’s responsibility to enforce it.

They say that the FTC would absolutely challenge any instance of ISPs discriminating against certain websites because this would break anti-trust laws.

As it turns out, the FTC disagrees. FTC chairman Joseph Simons said that “blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization would not be per se antitrust violations.” Interesting.

In 2017, the FCC repealed Obama-era net neutrality rules. Last week, the House of Representatives passed a measure that would reinstate these rules, but the Senate’s resident turtle-man Mitch McConnell gave it the middle finger, saying the bill would be “dead on arrival.”

The trouble with all this is that more than 80 percent of Americans supported keeping the Obama-era rules in place.

Net neutrality protects consumers from anti-competitive practices; I don’t think anyone would like to spend more time waiting for Netflix to load because they (or their college) chose the wrong ISP.

The role of politicians is to represent the people who voted for them. On net neutrality, Democrats have generally done a good job of this.

Republicans, however, believe that they can distract from the widespread support for this policy by spreading falsehoods and confusing people to the point where they give up trying to understand the issue.

If net neutrality is not enforced, the internet will fall under control of the companies with the most money. Let’s keep it in the hands of the people.

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