What The Net Neutrality Repeal Means For You

Nicholas Chang 12/14/17

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On Thursday, December 14, 2017, The Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal what has been called “Net Neutrality,” or a series of rules and regulations set by the Obama administration in 2015 regarding how internet service must be handled by providers.

         In the weeks leading up to the move, internet websites and social media were alight with apocalyptic fervor to stop the vote, calling upon Congress to block it, signing internet petitions and excessively reposting activist content ad nauseam. However, as the Chairman Ajit Pai predicted, the popular uproar was insufficient to do anything to change the final decision.

         In 2015, the federal government passed restrictions that stopped internet service providers from charging more money for certain content, especially those such as Netflix which use excessive bandwidth, or from throttling internet speed for lower-paying users. As is the rest of the economy, the internet exists in a world of limited resources and infinite human desire, but the resources must be allocated in some way, what better way than through capitalism? Despite the internet having existed without Net Neutrality for decades prior, people were quick to assume repealing these 2-year-old laws would be the end of it.

         This was a position of the Trump Administration, though American conservatives are still largely split on the issue.

         Proponents of Net Neutrality argue that some places do not have many options for internet service providers, which means ISP’s will be able to charge exorbitant prices for access to premium content. This government-mandated ideal of “fairness,” that is, mandating that all internet must be provided at a flat rate, is what some believe will prevent anti-competitive behavior such as companies blocking their opponents’ apps from being downloaded.

         Detractors of Net Neutrality argue that the government is over-regulating the internet and that removing those regulations will actually reduce the overall price of internet access by allowing people to purchase custom-tailored internet access for just the things they need. For example, an elderly person seeking to check their emails once a week need not pay for the high-bandwidth streaming and gaming bundle that a college student would like.

         Allowing the piecemeal sale of internet access would, at least in theory, allow customers to get what suits them and nothing more—a more cost-efficient way to obtain one’s needs, but even that is not expected to happen in spite of the melodrama. What is most likely is that the internet will continue on the way it currently is and has been for the past 30+ years.

         Despite the vote passing, Net Neutrality has not yet been abolished and the rules are still in effect. Congress has a chance to stop it, and there is already a bill being drafted to overturn the FCC ruling. Even if the repeal survives Congress, it will then still have to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget. Furthermore, some are looking to sue the FCC for a violation of civil rights. It could be a month to half a year before the rules are officially repealed.

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