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The End of Net Neutrality

Federal+Communications+Commission+Chairman+Ajit+Varadaraj+Pai+testifies+on+Wednesday%2C+July+19%2C+2017+before+the+U.S.+Senate+Committee+on+Commerce%2C+Science%2C+and+Transportation+on+Capitol+Hill+in+Washington%2C+D.C.+Photo+courtesy+of+the+Tribune+News+Service
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The End of Net Neutrality

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Varadaraj Pai testifies on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of the Tribune News Service

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Varadaraj Pai testifies on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of the Tribune News Service

Photo by: TNS

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Varadaraj Pai testifies on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of the Tribune News Service

Photo by: TNS

Photo by: TNS

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Varadaraj Pai testifies on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of the Tribune News Service

Jack Stobbe, Sports Editor

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Example of posters and online graphics created for the Day of Action to save net neutrality.
Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Example of posters and online graphics created for the Day of Action to save net neutrality.
Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In mid-December 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and its chairman, Ajit Pai, made a decision that could change the way the internet is used forever.

The FCC made the decision to repeal the “open internet”, or what is referred to as net neutrality.

Net neutrality, for those who may not know, “is the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) treat all content equally and not give preference to any digital content providers. That means the consumer can load every website, app or video equally, regardless of where the content is hosted,” according to ABC News.

In layman’s terms, that means the consumer has complete open access to the internet, and everything loads at the speed your connection allows. It doesn’t matter whether the content is found on the largest, most visited web page on the internet or on the site of the smallest business, it can be accessed all the same.

The FCC first voted in 2015 and classified the broadband providers that give the people the ability to get on the internet as public utilities. This classification, which was based on Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, means that ISPs like AT&T or Verizon cannot interfere with web traffic.

What the 2017 vote did is repeal that decision, and remove the public utility classification from ISPs. This means that the internet providers can charge money for access to some websites or slow down the content of their competitors.

Now, the result of this decision doesn’t mean that this ruling is final: the vote still has to go through Congress first. And under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Congress can reverse a change in a federal regulation by a simple majority vote within 60 days after that regulation is published in the official record. 

Numerous interest groups, like Free Press or Public Knowledge, and members of Congress are ready to go to court against the FCC. The state general attorney of over 20 states have already filed lawsuits to stop the repeal, with Montana Governor Steve Bullock signing an executive order saying that, “any internet service provider with a state government contract cannot block or charge more for faster delivery of websites to any customer in the state,” according to the New York Times.

Large businesses like Netflix that could be seriously affected by the repeal of net neutrality have also criticized the repeal, and have said that this could be the beginning of a “longer legal battle” with the FCC.

Kickapoo senior Joseph Choi is against the repeal of net neutrality rules.

“I don’t like the idea of the repeal. I like the freedom the internet gives me to do what I want and search for what I want,” Choi said.

Choi also thinks that the rules in place should be left alone because they are getting the job done.

“I don’t think they should repeal the protections. It has upset most of the people in the country and a lot of its big companies. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it and it’s better just to not mess with it,” Choi said.

Supporters of the FCC’s decision to repeal the 2015 vote state that it could save consumers money on their data plans. For example, Verizon allows its customers to stream NFL games without data charges. And T-Mobile lets some of its subscribers stream Netflix, HBO and Hulu without counting against their data limits as part of its Binge On service.

Opposers of the repeal argue that the “little guys” on the internet (websites of small businesses for example) will die without net neutrality. Without these open internet rules, consumer groups and smaller internet companies fear broadband providers could offer faster internet speeds to companies that can pay them and slow down access to websites and companies that can’t afford to do so.

Charter Communications, an ISP that provides for about 22.3 million U.S. homes, sent out a statement in an article from USA Today that they do not plan on “blocking” or “throttling” their customers’ internet access because it would be bad for business.

The statement explains that, “We don’t slow down, block, or discriminate against lawful content. Simply put, we don’t interfere with the lawful online practices of our customers and we have no plans to change our practices.”

Right, wrong or indifferent, some big changes to the way the Internet is regulated could be fast approaching. Whether or not the FCC gets what it wants, their vote certainly has divided the country.

83% of the over 1,000 registered voters  opposed the FCC’s decision to repeal the current net neutrality rules, according to a poll conducted by The Hill.

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