Net Neutrality Update

Net Neutrality bill approved in California state legislature.

The California state legislature approved a bill reinstating Net Neutrality in the state of California Jan. 29, 2018. The California bill was in response to the Federal Communications Commission who voted against the 2015 bill to preserve Net Neutrality Dec. 14, 2017.

Net Neutrality assures that internet providers may not choose which websites load fast versus slow, nor may they charge companies to make their websites load faster. On Nov. 21, 2017, current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai released a draft to repeal Net Neutrality.

The California State Senate voted to keep Net Neutrality 21-12.

“Net neutrality is essential to our 21st century democracy, and we need to be sure that people can access websites and information freely and fairly,” California State Senator and 11th District Representative Scott Wiener said in a public statement. “If the FCC is going to destroy net neutrality and create a system that favors certain websites just because they can pay more money, California must step in and ensure open internet access.”

According to Wiener, there are several ways that the state of California can bring back Net Neutrality within the state.

“My legislation will bring net neutrality requirements to California,” Weiner said. “California can regulate business practices to require net neutrality, condition state contracts on adhering to net neutrality, and require net neutrality as part of cable franchise agreements, as a condition to using the public right-of-way for internet infrastructure, and in broadband packages.”

Senior Ava Farriday said that Net Neutrality affects free access to all information, which should be a democratic right.

“I believe Net Neutrality is really important for democracy in our country. Without Net Neutrality, big corporations like Comcast and Verizon will be able to control internet speeds for certain websites, which not only makes it more difficult to access information online, but puts entrepreneurs and small business owners at a disadvantage,” Farriday wrote to the Talon. “These small businesses often can’t afford to pay a lot of money to keep their website running at the fast speed that it would have naturally been able to if Net Neutrality wasn’t repealed.”

According to Farriday, the end of Net Neutrality will also affect Oak Park in students’ ability to do classwork and research.

“The repeal of Net Neutrality will definitely have ripple effects in Oak Park, but it’s difficult to say to what extent. These corporations have the power to control what kind of information we see online, which in my opinion violates the democratic notion of free access to public information,” Farriday said. “This could absolutely affect our ability to complete school projects and homework. Also, some teachers might not be able to rely completely on having a digital classroom.”

According to Principal Kevin Buchanan, Net Neutrality is necessary in a classroom.

“I know that California has taken a position to enforce Net Neutrality, which is great news for us,” Buchanan said. “I think the whole idea of ending net neutrality is terrible. The internet is based on the internet service providers being neutral about the content that’s delivered on the internet, because these are businesses, and they are subject to political pressure if they have certain feelings about certain sites or topics they can slow down those sites, or not carry access to those sites at all.”

According to Buchanan, since Oak Park’s curriculum is very reliant on technology, Net Neutrality’s repeal will negatively affect Oak Park, along with other public schools’ curriculums.

“Because educational institutions don’t pay for internet, there is no money in internet access for schools for the companies that provide the services,” Buchanan said. “So the fear is that if the schools are not seen as profit sensors for the internet providers, then they will slow down their service to us and give us second-class service or third-class service because we’re not lining their pockets. So, I think that’s a real danger to public schools with the end of Net Neutrality.”

However, California’s legislature is taking a stand against the repeal of Net Neutrality, and is maintaining that Net Neutrality is beneficial for the citizens.

“I’m really pleased that Governor Brown and California state legislature have taken a position against the FCC,” Buchanan said. “California has done that a number of federal mandates and gone on their own and said, ‘Well, we are still for clean air and ending dependence on fossil fuels,’ so California is really maintaining their belief in what’s good for the people of California. I’m really proud of that, that’s really good.”

California Senator Kamala Harris agrees that Net Neutrality should not have been repealed.

“This proposal by the Federal Communications Commission would dismantle strong and enforceable net neutrality rules. The proposal is a grave threat to the Internet’s success, and to California’s future,” Harris wrote in a statement. “Broadband service providers — the gatekeepers to the Internet — have the technical means and business incentive to distort the online marketplace. If the FCC adopts this proposal, it will imperil the engine of California’s economy and the platform for California’s extraordinary entrepreneurship and creativity.”

However, Net Neutrality may be coming back. According to Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Doyle, Congress may soon bring back Net Neutrality, due to increasing public pressure on the FCC.

“There’s overwhelming public support for preserving Net Neutrality, so it’s no surprise that there’s strong support in Congress as well. I’m confident that if there’s enough public pressure, Congress will overturn the FCC’s order killing net neutrality,” Doyle said in a public statement. “I will continue to seek additional cosponsors in the weeks ahead.”