Saying Good-Pai to Net Neutrality

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When you clicked on the link to this article, you probably didn’t think twice about whether it would load properly, or if your Internet service provider would block the same access to this site that you’ve always had – that is, under net neutrality.

Net neutrality, reclassified in 2015 under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), deems the Internet a public utility such that no content can be prioritized or blocked. Under net neutrality, Internet service providers, or ISPs, may not interfere with the delivery of web content on their networks. However, under Ajit Pai, the FCC Chairman appointed by President Trump, this prohibition is at risk.

Instead of government by the people, for the people, it appears that Pai believes in government by big companies, for big companies. Pai claims that net neutrality “could be prohibiting a number of pro-competitive business arrangements.” The business arrangements he refers to are those between ISPs and content providers. Big businesses can pay ISPs to prioritize their content, even to the extent of blocking or slowing the content of competitors. This would be favorable to both ISPs and those businesses able to afford paid-prioritization at the cost of smaller start-ups. Under net neutrality, search engines, websites, video providers, etc. all have equal access to the Internet. If the FCC’s net neutrality rules no longer exist, ISPs would no longer be required to permit content delivery in an unbiased manner. According to Pai, however, that is just a “hypothetical harm.” Surely, ISPs and large content providers would voluntarily play fair even though net neutrality regulations would no longer exist.

Pai is a former lawyer for Verizon, which could explain his opposition to net neutrality, which he suggests “could end up reducing investments.” This may seem like a valid argument, but at an investment conference, the CFO of Verizon, Francis Shammo, said regarding net neutrality, “I mean to be real clear, I mean this does not influence the way we invest.” Pai is portraying net neutrality as detrimental to ISPs, when in actuality, the cost to companies like Verizon is minimal if any. Net neutrality restrictions only serve to inhibit large ISPs like Verizon from extorting outrageous fees from content providers; they still profit greatly from hundreds of other business ventures.

The FCC’s proposed termination of net neutrality is repugnant in many ways, particularly for those of who crave information on politics and current events. The notion that an ISP may slow down your connection to sites or articles that oppose their own or those of content providers who pay them more money for better access is dangerous. In fact, ISPs advocating for the abolishment of net neutrality could prohibit access to the article you are reading right now. To keep the Internet free for everyone to have equal access to the news, websites, and videos of their choice, net neutrality must remain a fundamental right for everyone.

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