Students fight net neutrality proposal

Proposal to increase internet service cost, decrease free access

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Last week, the Federal Communications Commission released the final draft of their proposal to cut the number of net neutrality protections. The agency will vote on this plan Thursday, Dec. 14. In response to the proposal, several Oak Park students, teachers and community members have taken to contacting their representatives to voice their opinions.

Net neutrality is the idea that all service providers must provide equal access to all sites regardless of the user, content or platform. It guarantees that no service providers can slow down, block or restrict consumers from accessing online sites and content.

In May 2017, the FCC voted 2-1 to move chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to end neutrality forward. Last week, the final rendition of the proposal was released. Agency members will vote on the proposal Thursday, Dec. 14.

“It’s a very complicated concept. But to boil it down, it’s a free and open and internet that everybody can have access to — whether you’re wealthy or you’re poor or you’re middle class,” economics teacher D.J. Cook said. “If net neutrality goes away, what you’re going to have is a fast lane and a slow lane for the internet and what companies like AT&T, and Time Warner, and Directv can do, is they can take a very wealthy company like Netflix and blackmail them into paying a higher rate to have the streaming continue to work in the way it works right now.”

Net neutrality laws were first implemented during the Obama administration. The FCC ruled in favor of these neutrality protections Feb. 26, 2015. These rules went into effect in June 2015. However, with the change in administration, President Donald Trump appointed Pai to the chairman seat in April 2017. Pai vowed to repeal net neutrality during his tenure.

If net neutrality goes away, what you’re going to have is a fast lane and a slow lane for the internet.”

— D.J. Cook

Repealing the protections would lead to higher prices for internet services that consumers currently pay minimal amounts for.

“It would be extremely detrimental to our economic system, it would split the upper and lower classes even further because if somebody’s internet bill goes from $100 to $500, some families are still going to pay for that but if you’re already struggling to pay $100 then you are not going to have access to the internet,” Cook said.

Its repeal would also allow larger corporations to outcompete smaller businesses by paying more for faster internet services.

“It goes against what I think a lot of traditional American values are. The concept of the American dream is the ability to pursue your goals and allow small companies to rise. But by allowing big companies to take over everything, it’s going to shut down small companies,” senior Kimia Mohebi said.

Others, who favor Pai’s proposal have voiced their support for its passage. In an interview with NPR news, Pai stated a condition of the proposal.

The concept of the American dream is the ability to pursue your goals and allow small companies to rise. But by allowing big companies to take over everything, it’s going to shut down small companies.”

— Kimia Mohebi

“The FCC would still require transparency. Any business practice that would affect the offering of a service has to be disclosed to the consumers. Secondly, the Federal Trade Commission has long had authority and had authority prior to 2015 for almost 20 years over this space. They took targeted action against the bad apples, and they let everyone else thrive in a free market, and I think consumers and companies were better off as a result,” Pai said.

Pai stated that the reason behind the change is to return to a “free market consensus.”

“All we are simply doing is putting engineers and entrepreneurs, instead of bureaucrats and lawyers, back in charge of the internet,” Pai said on Fox News.

Furthermore, Pai, along with other supporters of the proposal, stated that the internet was functioning adequately, even before net neutrality restrictions were put in place in 2015.

“There was nothing broken about the internet before 2015,” Pai said. “And, going forward, if a company acts in an anti-competitive way, the Federal Trade Commission is expressly empowered to protect competition and consumers.”

Opponents remain critical of the motivations surrounding the proposal.

“The desire to end it is 100 percent corporate-driven. It’s been driven by corporations that have been merging together and becoming giant entities to essentially get more profits,” Cook said.

As competition is crucial to maintaining fair prices, opponents of the proposal said they are worried for the monopolies the new plan might create.

“This has been about a 10-year process. Telephone companies and cable companies have been merging together and positioning themselves to get in a spot where they control the market and control the internet. If they do that, then they can set the price for it in almost a monopoly kind of way. That’s always bad for consumers,” Cook said.

Additionally, some have spoken out against the socioeconomic implications of the proposal.

“It’s really going to hinder the next generation. We all have iPhones and Instagram and Snapchat and Twitter and that’s how we all communicate. That’s literally the new world. A lot of people rising out of poverty won’t be able to afford access to all of those things if they have to pay more for internet. They won’t be able to connect with people. It will just create a bigger class divide,” Mohebi said.

The United States, if the proposal passes, will join Portugal, as the only two developed nations lacking net neutrality.

“You like Netflix? Goodbye, Netflix! — unless you want to pay $100 for the fast lane every month. Do you like going on Amazon and having fast speeds and getting things done quick? You’re going to have to pay top dollar for that stuff. Do you like going on Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat? All of that stuff is going to cost you more money to go on when today it’s essentially already what you have for low prices,” Cook said.

Members of the millennial group in particular have spoken out against the repeal, citing its detriment to student life.

“With net neutrality, it’s your internet, your Snapchat, your Instagram, Gmail, Google. You can’t do these things anymore if you don’t have net neutrality; you’ll have to pay extra. It’s definitely an issue that students can resonate with,” Mohebi said.

Many Americans remain unaware of the impacts of net neutrality.

“The thing about net neutrality is that it is so complicated that people won’t know that it affects them until it impacts them and when it does impact them, it will be too late,” Cook said.

However, some remain hopeful in the public’s ability to stop the passing.

I believe net neutrality protects not only cheap, fast internet, but also the voices of the underprivileged, underrepresented and underestimated.”

— Joshna Jude Jose

“I think the youth have a lot of power, a lot of understanding of this topic and a lot of ability to make these changes for yourselves. My generation doesn’t fully understand it. The strongest voice in this argument is going to be the youth. My message would be to get involved, to get active, because this is one of many important fights, especially amongst the millennials,” Cook said.

Students have taken active steps to voice their concerns.

“I’ve called my representatives every morning for the past week as I get ready for zero period. I leave a message for Senator Kamala Harris and then if I have time at lunch or nutrition, I’ll call one more time,” Mohebi said. “Emailing someone is like the same thing as texting them. It takes five seconds and you won’t even think about it 10 minutes later, but it could mean a world of a difference if everyone did it.”

Others have taken to social media to educate others on the issue.

“I am using activist websites to email representatives of both Congress and the FCC. I am also raising awareness by posting information on my Instagram and educating my friends. I post infographics and links every few days to make sure people don’t forget about this important issue,” junior Joshna Jude Jose said. “I believe net neutrality protects not only cheap, fast internet, but also the voices of the underprivileged, underrepresented and underestimated.”

Many are urging others to get involved in the political process, either voicing their support or opposition for the proposal.

“It looks like net neutrality is going away unless we get a lot of pressure on the FCC and a lot of pressure on politicians at this moment,” Cook said. “We have a limited window to stop it between now and the end of the year.”

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