What Net Neutrality Says About Us

Zoey Greenwald

More stories from Zoey Greenwald

May 9, 2019

Net neutrality is a rule that has existed since the beginning of the Internet. It means that if you have an internet provider such as Spectrum or AT&T, you get internet access to all of the Internet. It says that any internet service provider has to grant you access to all websites at the same speed, no matter what.

The Internet currently works like water— you pay the water company and you get water, no matter which faucet in the the house you want to use. All water is treated neutrally, no matter if it’s used in your sink, your washing machine, or your shower. This is net neutrality.

So, what does a world without net neutrality look like?

Without net neutrality, your internet service provider will be able to slow down and block certain websites at will. This means that they could charge you extra for certain websites, charge you separately for each one you access, and block some websites altogether. Websites could end up in bundles, forcing you to pick and choose which ones you want to pay for, like television channels. One fee for Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Another fee for Google, Amazon, and Youtube. Another for CNN, the LA Times, and the Washington Post.

But maybe no fee for Fox, if your service provider thinks that’s what you should be reading. Or maybe, they’d just block all other news sites.

See the problem? Your internet service provider could make your internet look like whatever they want it to look like, slowing down and blocking websites that they don’t want you on, and making the ones they do want you on the most accessible.

What gives them the right to do this? Enter Ajit Pai, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, the commission in charge of regulating communication— analogous to the FDA with food. He’s explained that he doesn’t want to put regulations on the Internet because he’s concerned that “by imposing those heavy-handed economic regulations on Internet service providers big and small, [he] could end up disincentivizing companies from wanting to build out internet access,” but that would require the internet service providers to own control of the Internet— which they have never done and were never intended to do. They are and have always been the middle men. But because net neutrality is a regulation and not a law, the FCC can vote on it in relative seclusion. Pai’s previous job was as a lawyer for Verizon. Why wouldn’t he want to let them own the Internet?

The Internet has never been owned by anybody. It’s used by citizens of the internet, made by its citizens, and is for its citizens. It’s called the World Wide Web for a reason.

Even worse, the removal of net neutrality is being marketed to legislators as some twisted form of liberation. Net neutrality is government regulation of the internet. But the internet shouldn’t be regulated, right?

This is the pitch given to your legislators. It is manipulated information. Yes, Net Neutrality does regulate the internet, but only to protect internet users. Society implements rules to protect people from being taken advantage of. This is how law has always worked.

We are the citizens of the internet. We use the internet more than any generation ever did. You should take this personally. This is an attack on OUR generation, by people who want to control and make money doing so, facilitated by people who either have their best interests in lining the pockets of Internet service providers, or simply don’t understand what the law means.

We are teenagers, and we are the internet-immersed generation. We’ve never known a time before the internet. The thought of our parents seeing our internet history when the bill comes every month may be terrifying, but in reality, that’s only one of the many side affects of this big problem.

The Internet is so much more than just websites. It’s how we live our lives, and it’s something that exists outside of capitalist greed or manipulation of information. Right now, we can only hope for a society as free as the Internet, and as the generation raised by the Internet, we may be the first ones really working towards creating that kind of free, open society. But not if we have the Internet— these vapors of utopian ideals and outdated Vines— taken away from us while we weren’t on watch.

Tomorrow, the FCC is voting to take away net neutrality, and they will probably vote to repeal it. There are people calling senators and there are rallies being planned, but I personally believe that by this point, such activities are in vain. Remember that this is not a law— it’s a regulation. So, the citizens don’t vote on it, the FCC does. What we need to understand is that the death of net neutrality is a bigger problem, concerning our image of society as a generation versus the image of society that the government wants to see— and the Internet is the representation of such a society. We, young people, citizens of the internet, have created it in our ideal image. What we need to save the internet and ourselves is a government that thinks like we do. That thinks like the internet does and always has: freely, selflessly, innovatively, and when it comes to favoring those with arbitrary advantages like wealth and control, neutral.