No More Net Neutrality - What's to Come?

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to repeal the current regulations on net neutrality, with the vote ending 3-2 in favor of the repeal. If you’ve been on the Internet at all this past week, you’ve surely had to see the phrase “net neutrality” popping up everywhere. But what does all of it mean?

For anyone who is unaware, “net neutrality” refers to the concept that all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, and more have to treat all Internet data as the same, regardless of provider, user, content, or method of access. This is supposed to ensure a free and open Internet.

The regulations we just had repealed were ones set in place in 2015 under the Obama Administration, as it attempted to better prevent ISPs from abusing their power and interfering in consumer use of the Internet. It was especially important as society increasingly relies on the Internet and social media to be informed of news and look up things.

Social media has been abuzz, claiming that if net neutrality was repealed, people might have to do things like pay $15 a month for Twitter and other social media sites, $5 a month to access online newspapers, and $1 for each Google search. Adults and teenagers alike can be seen panicking all over their newsfeeds. However, this does not really reflect how the repeal will actually work.

Major content providers like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google, and more would likely be included in your base package from your ISP or could afford to pay for a preferential treatment from those ISPs. Other companies who could not afford to do so would face more fees and end up slowed down or restricted for consumers. The banishment of net neutrality rules means that giant ISP companies could even block access to opinions and sites they didn't agree with, changing our access to many news outlets to get a full and honest story of current events. This is especially problematic for activist and marginalized groups who heavily rely on the Internet to organize and spread their messages, as well as garner support in various ways.

Additionally, smaller businesses will suffer and new companies or products will struggle to get off the ground because they will face difficulty competing with the major content providers that are favored by ISPs. Although supporters of today’s decision say the repeal means competition between providers can increase and ultimately benefit consumers by forcing ISPs to find ways to make themselves more appealing. However, there is the major issue that ISPs could actually block consumer access to their competitors.

It will take weeks to months for the repeal to go into effect. The battle is far from over, as lawsuits and calls for bills to reestablish the 2015 regulations are already emerging. However, this is a very important change that was made today, and it should be taken very seriously as we as consumers and American citizens await to see the outcome.