by Nolan Leahy
On July 12th, 2017, a massive protest headed by numerous computer hardware, software, and website companies will ensue along with millions of Americans in an effort to sway Congress and the FCC to stop the repeal of Net Neutrality. Those included in the protest are giants such as Vimeo, ThinkGeek, Kickstarter, Amazon, Reddit, Netflix, and Twitter. Roughly 60 companies are involved with the protest. Facebook and Google both aren’t fans of the possible repeal. To be clear though, the interest of this repeal comes from the top players such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Time Warner Cable. Smaller and less known ISPs have cosigned a letter with their desires for stopping the repeal.
To those unfamiliar with Net Neutrality, Net Neutrality is a principle that states Internet Service Providers (ISPs) cannot interfere with what everyday individuals engage in online through the Internet. Without Net Neutrality, ISPs would be able to prioritize connections to various websites that could benefit that specific ISP.
A great example of who would benefit from this repeal is Comcast because of their ownership of NBCUniversal Media. With that in consideration, Comcast is currently planning on creating a Netflix-style website to compete with Hulu and other streaming sites. What could happen after the repeal of Net Neutrality, is that Comcast could immensely slow down video loading speeds of their customers that try to watch NBCUniversal shows on other sites. In other words, if a Comcast customer is watching American Ninja Warrior on Netflix, then poor streaming is to be expected because Comcast would rather have people watching American Ninja Warrior on its websites. This would generate more clicks for Comcast and earn them more money through viewership and potential advertising. This repeal can also allow for Internet censorship, blocking, and creating massive priorities on what ISPs want their customers to consume through the media.
As of right now, Net Neutrality dictates that the Internet is considered a public utility, which is similar to how individuals would pay for a water, gas, and electric bill. This is because of the interpretation of Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934 in how the 2015 ruling classified Internet usage to be under the Common Carrier rulings. These rulings within Title II in Sec. 202a state that…
“It shall be unlawful for any common carrier to make any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services for or in connection with like communication service, directly or indirectly, by any means or device, or to make or give any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to any particular person, class of persons, or locality, or to subject any particular person, class of persons, or locality to any undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage.”
Along with the FCC Chairman Ajit V. Pai’s desire to repeal Net Neutrality, he also wants to repeal Title II as well, which would allow for ISPs to accomplish consumer discrimination based off of consumer preferences in their business practices.
Internet and broadband companies are getting rather greedy with the desire for Net Neutrality to be repealed. Kaitlyn Tiffany, a writer for The Verge, wrote an article how Verizon is silencing Tumblr’s fight for Net Neutrality. Her article states that when Verizon bought Yahoo last month, Tumblr CEO David Karp went silent on Net Neutrality, because Yahoo is the parent company of Tumblr. Her sentiment is supported by the fact that, David Karp doesn’t have the reputation of being shy when it comes to social or political issues.
With Comcast and Verizon being against Net Neutrality, it seems that this is more major ISP greed vs. the Internet consumer base. This should be a non-partisan issue because the Internet has become such a dire necessity to function at home, work, school, and even for recreational activities. Repealing Title II has the potential to drastically change how the US consumes Internet content. Everyone can be harmed by this repeal which would allow ISPs to have influence on Internet trafficking and what the people can or cannot see, and the Internet is arguably the paragon for freedom of expression and the free market; and the major ISPs want to change that.
Netflix, Amazon, and Google are creating messages that will appear on their websites and phone applications to let people know about the possible repeal in an effort to gain more of the public’s majority support. As for right now, a poll that consists of United States registered voters said that about 61 percent approved of Net Neutrality, while 18 percent oppose, and 21 percent either had no clue or no opinion about Net Neutrality. People are joining the protest at battleforthenet.com and are sending letters to the FCC and Congress, voicing concerns about the future of Net Neutrality. The deadline for public commentary is on July 17th, 2017.
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