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A note from the Editor…

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The internet: a place commonly known for its collections of cat videos, bizarre memes, and the potential websites that live in the Incognito Modes of your closest friends and family.

Whatever you may use it for, the internet is undoubtedly part of your life — most likely a more significant part than you consciously realize (or would like to admit). Whether it’s to talk to loved ones you may not see as frequently as you’d like or just to Google how long you need to cook soft boiled eggs, most people use the internet in some capacity every day. I’m online as I write this, typing in Google Docs and streaming music on iTunes, having just done a significant amount of research by accessing various news and op-ed websites via Google’s search engine.

Net neutrality ensures that all of those things remain possible so long as I have a connection to the internet, no matter who provides that service or what package I have.

In our current system, we pay for our internet entirely based on its speed. If you want cheap internet, it’s probably fairly slow. If you want fast internet, you’ll probably have to pay a bit more. No matter how fast your connection is, though, you can access anything with a URL (even if you have satellite internet and it takes a couple millennia to load the page).

Without net neutrality, internet service providers (ISPs) would be allowed to slow or block access to whatever sites they so choose. This means that ISPs would be able to charge consumers based on what sites they want to access or which companies have paid for better speed on their own sites. ISPs could even block or intentionally slow access to the sites of their competitors or messages they disagree with.

Does any of that sound like it might be an infraction of the First Amendment? Does it make you worry that your days of watching YouTube, streaming Pandora, browsing Facebook and Skyping your relatives all on a single internet bill might be in danger of ending? Does it make you wonder how any startup company could ever get its foot in the door when it can’t afford to pay an ISP to boost its services?

These are all questions that we need to be asking, because the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be voting to reverse the current rules of net neutrality, laid down in 2015, on Dec. 14.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon, has stated that this vote is simply to “bring back the same legal framework that was governing the internet three years ago” and that ISPs will still respect the idea of an open internet. He seems to be arguing that nothing will change. My question, then, is this: if nothing will change and ISPs will continue to act in the same ways they do now, why expend the hassle to overturn the ruling at all? It seems to me that someone must have something to gain that is pushing this agenda, and my bet is on the ISPs.

Telecommunications companies are some of the largest and most powerful entities in the United States, often bordering on monopolies in some areas. Most people in this country only have one option for high-speed internet, and Johnson is no exception.

This adds the extra complication that unhappy customers often have no alternative. If Comcast decides to drop the speeds of my favorite streaming service, I have no choice but to tolerate it, unless I want to move to somewhere that falls within the high-speed coverage map of another ISP.

If net neutrality is overturned on Dec. 14, consumers will no longer be able to trust that their ISP will always treat all internet content the same. The companies may promise to respect an open internet for now, but if they ever decide to change that, the lack of competition means that consumers will have no real way to push back.

Whether you use the internet for a wide variety of services, rely on high-speed service for your livelihood or are just worried that your favorite porn site won’t be included in your ISP’s fast lane of preferred websites, net neutrality affects you.

We have two weeks until the FCC votes. Now is the time to speak up.

 

—Cayla Fronhofer, Editor-in-Chief

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A note from the Editor…