Joaquin McEnteer completed a summer internship with the ACLU of Vermont. This essay is his culmunating project. He is a high school Senior at Academia Cotopaxi in Quito, Ecuador.
People living in the United States have become accustomed to an internet where net neutrality has always been present. However, under the Trump administration, the regulations that allowed information and internet speeds not to be controlled have recently been repealed by the FCC. The specific regulations that were repealed required internet service providers to offer equal access to all content on the web without charging users more for faster loading or giving preferential treatment to certain websites.
Effects of Deregulation for Average U.S. Users
One of the biggest changes that could take place with the repeal of net neutrality is that internet providers could begin selling bundles, similar to modern cable television. For example, if a user wanted to access Facebook, Instagram, other apps, or special content, they would have to pay extra for these subscriptions, disadvantaging lower income earners in how they are able to access, create and share information. It affects their access to services such as online education and specific skills training.
Without net neutrality laws in place, your internet service provider can control your upload and download speeds, determining how quickly webpages you access load. Providers can charge you for websites you currently visit for free, and cap how much data you’re allowed to use. They can also block access to certain apps, products, and information offered by their competitors or sources they don’t like. The biggest providers can block information on certain topics, news events, or issues they don’t want you to know about. For example, they can simply refuse access to news of grassroots movements, protest events or “unorthodox” points of view. Therefore, if a company endorses or supports a certain political candidate, they can subtly block any information that would prove detrimental to their candidate, while supporting news articles that cast a bad light on their opponents.
In this way, companies with national customer bases can become large influencers in political races, how information is controlled and spread, and undermine the possibility of organizing widespread protests and grassroots movements. Without net neutrality, censorship of ideas is much easier to accomplish.
The Ongoing Struggle for Net Neutrality
Despite these dangers, the way most people use the internet is not likely to be affected immediately, due to pushback from many individuals and organizations fighting the repeal, including the American Civil Liberties Union.
Congress has made attempts to cancel the repeal under the Congressional Review Act, which was passed by the Senate but is still under review by courts in the District of Columbia. Shortly after the repeal occurred, a group of state attorneys general signed a joint lawsuit against the FCC to revoke the new laws, currently awaiting review by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in D.C. Some states have tried to implement their own versions of net neutrality laws, but the FCC also explicitly blocked states from adding those laws to their own legislatures.
The ACLU has joined a coalition of parties that include Amazon, Etsy, Mozilla, and Kickstarter to alert the
general public about how repealing net neutrality will be detrimental, what people need to know about how it affects their daily life, and much more.
Join the Fight
Soon after the FCC repealed the net neutrality laws, Senator Bernie Sanders issued a statement accusing the Trump administration of once again siding with large corporations, instead of the best interests of the people, and showed his support for fighting the repeal. As of February 2018, Vermont joined Montana, New Jersey, Hawaii, and New York as states that have passed regulations mandating net neutrality on a statewide level.
How can you help fight the FCC’s decision to repeal? Keep the pressure on and support the Congressional Review Act by contacting your state representatives and urging them to vote in favor of passing the bill that allows the net neutrality repeal to be nullified.