Why the Net Neutrality Repeal Isn’t Viable
By: Steven Aiello
The internet is one of the most necessary aspects of society, but the way in which people can use it could change for the worse.
Throughout the latter half of 2017, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai, has been working to repeal the net neutrality laws set in place by previous administrations.
Net neutrality, coined in 2003, is not a law as much as it is a principle that argues for free, unrestricted and unbiased access to the internet.
Under net neutrality, internet service providers such as Verizon, Spectrum and many more must provide the same level of access to all websites or content on the internet.
Net neutrality has greatly benefited both consumers and tech companies, and the announcement by Pai to repeal net neutrality laws was met with a significant backlash from the two parties.
One of the most common arguments against the repeal is that it infringes on the first amendment. In spite of these arguments, net neutrality – at least concerning consumers and web companies – isn’t entirely about the first amendment.
If anything, it is equally seen as unconstitutional to deny internet service providers these regulations because the first amendment also guarantees the right to private property.
Because telecommunications companies manufacture their own wires and pipelines, it is not owned by the government and is therefore their own private property that they can manage as they please.
In addition, internet service providers are instating these regulations since companies like Google and other brands use up the majority of their bandwidth. Thus, charges for using certain websites are basically fees that these companies must pay in order to achieve the best possible internet speeds.
The problem essentially boils down to a struggle between internet service providers and internet technology companies, with the consumer being caught in the middle of said struggle. Internet service providers are operating their businesses legally, but the repeal of net neutrality could still result in more issues than it potentially fixes.
Competition among companies, for instance, is one of the biggest reasons for the variety found on the internet. If net neutrality laws are not in effect, companies can block or limit access to services simply because those services compete with their own products.
This has already happened with companies such as AT&T and Verizon, and the problem is that it eliminates competition. Removing competition means that there is no incentive to improve, resulting in worse products for consumers.
This act also removes most of the variety found on the internet, forcing people to use only one product regardless of its quality. Consumers and internet users might very well be compelled to stop using the internet altogether because of this.
Although the latter outcome is a detriment to service providers, it is undoubtedly worse for companies that are dependent on the internet for business.
While internet service providers can rely on other venues for money, companies that depend on and use the internet to distribute their products likely lack any other venue for money, and as such, will see a decline in profits.
One of Ajit Pai’s hopes is that investment and innovation will improve with the repeal of net neutrality, but throttling internet speeds or hiding websites behind walls will provide consumers less incentive to invest in the internet.
One of Pai’s other arguments is that an open internet is being limited by companies such as Twitter, Facebook and Google. Pai is right to an extent, as these websites have censored dissenting opinions at different points.
The approach is anything but sound, however, because internet service providers would be able to control content in that very same way. Letting internet service providers control content based on their own subjective ideas rather than an objective guideline or thought, will only serve to reinforce the practices Pai is opposed to on a much larger scale.
Both internet companies and service providers are guilty of censoring or controlling their content, and Pai’s strategy is in essence to “fight fire with fire.”
Based on how dependent people are on the internet in order to live their lives, repealing net neutrality will be anything but beneficial to making the internet more open.
The net neutrality repeal won’t mark the end of the internet, but will rather end of the internet’s ‘golden years’. Every bit of content will still be available, but in a much more limited and restricted state.
The only positive outcome from the highly likely repeal of net neutrality is that it could encourage people to fight more ardently for it. This is also helped by the fact that these laws are neither protected nor prohibited by the constitution.
Laws governing the status of net neutrality could very well change to pro net neutrality with a new administration, though it also means that another administration could just as easily pass laws against net neutrality.
Although Ajit Pai’s intentions of ensuring an open internet are reasonable, the approach to achieving this goal should be changed immensely. The current attitude towards net neutrality isn’t helping to make the internet more open as much as it further restricts access to the it.
In the end, proponents for net neutrality should fight and argue to retain an open internet by creating more compelling arguments for both cases or becoming more active in any possible protests.
Net neutrality has resulted in an immeasurable benefit, and the key to internet freedom lies in stronger regulations rather than more regulations.