Why net neutrality is important and why it’s under attack!

Carter Fournier, Staff Writer

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Net neutrality is the principle that internet companies have to treat all data and websites equally. So what does that mean? As a hypothetical example if an internet provider like Verizon, AT&T, or Comcast launches a new streaming service online then due to current FCC rules these companies can’t legally slow down the speed of a competing service to give consumers no other option but to use their service.

This practice is currently illegal but the new FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, chosen by the Trump administration in March of 2017, wants to change that. Before becoming FCC chairman Pai was a member of the Federal Communications Commission put there by former President Obama. Before becoming part of the FCC he was an associate general counsel at Verizon Communications Inc.

He claims getting rid of net neutrality will create more choices for consumers using capitalism, but how? Under normal circumstances where there is actual competition in a marketplace there wouldn’t be a need for many regulations but with the internet there are few choices and little competition in the marketplace, so these net neutrality regulations were put in place to protect consumers and allow for a mix of opinions and choices on the internet. Winners could not be artificially chosen by internet providers.

This push to get rid of net neutrality rules is very likely to pass and with that the internet will change for the worse becoming more like cable or satellite TV. These internet companies are pushing for the death of net neutrality and they will use these changes to make consumers pay more for less choices and freedom on the Internet. Verizon and others may already illegally abuse current rules. Verizon was accused in July of this year of lowering the streaming speeds of Netflix and YouTube because video speeds were locked on 10Mbps. Verizon said that it was due to its new unlimited data plans and that speeds were down for every website but arstechnica.com tested the speed of fast.com which is Netflix’s speed test tool and its competitor Ookla’s speedtest app on a Verizon Iphone and found Ookla’s speed was set at 82 Mbps and Fast.com was set at only 10 Mbps suggesting Verizon was throttling the speeds of their competition to give their preferred services an artificial competitive edge in the marketplace. This is currently illegal but it won’t be for long if Verizon gets its way.

A free and open internet is good for businesses so they can fairly compete with one another without internet service providers choosing winners and losers. The country of Portugal shows us what a net neutrality repeal would look like and it’s very ugly. Internet providers in the country are now splitting the internet into packages like cable or satellite TV. Customers of the Portuguese internet provider MEO pay a basic services fee and then have to pay an extra $6 per month to add any of 5 additional packages. A messaging package for instant messaging, Facetime, and Skype, A social package for access to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. A video package for access to YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime etc. An Email and Cloud package for Gmail and ICloud and finally a Music package for Spotify and Pandora. Also keep in mind Americans on average pay much more for internet than most of the developed world and if a similar system was used in the US it would likely cost more for consumers here than in Portugal. This issue is incredible important. A free and open internet promotes a fair market, Capitalism, Entrepreneurship, and free thinking we can’t lose.

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