THE INTERNET IS DEAD.
Okay no, it actually isn’t, but the Federal Communications Commission or FCC did metaphorically swing at it with a figurative hatchet today in their decision to repeal net neutrality regulations put into place by the Obama administration, potentially changing the nature of the internet and internet accessibility as we know it.
Net neutrality encompasses all regulations that ensure that information on the internet remains equal and accessible for all users. It’s basically what lets you watch vine compilations on YouTube for hours on end without having to pay extraneous sums for a platform that has always been reliably fast and free. These regulations prevent broadband companies like Comcast or Verizon from blocking or slowing internet speeds and then subsequently charging users for faster loading times at higher prices.
Besides general inconvenience, this decision could majorly affect education, on both a primary and secondary level. On NPR, Richard Culatta-CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education-worries about the inherent threat that the repeal of net neutrality and ultimate commercialization of internet accessibility poses for schooling systems. For a while, and still to some extent, well-funded schools out-competed schools from lower socioeconomic areas on the basis of resources, expertise in teaching staff and overall funds. But Culatta states that the egalitarian nature of the Internet really “leveled that playing field” between wealthier and under-funded schools, making it possible for students of various socioeconomic standings to have the access to the same breadth of knowledge and information available. With the possibility of net neutrality’s demise, students from under-resourced institutions are once again put at an unfair advantage.
On another important note, net neutrality negatively impacts creators and organizers, and particularly those from marginalized groups. Through the internet, women and people of color can create content for a platform that’s typically dominated by white, male-centric media. Not to mention that the Internet’s connectedness has given rise to a new era of organization for social and political change. The repeal directly attacks our access to resources we as marginalized communities need to seek out the representation we may not get elsewhere and also significantly hinder one of the most transformative and revolutionary tools of social justice.
Human toilet cleaner and chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai was urged by both parties and of course the general public to stall or even do away with voting for this repeal. Yet, despite the overwhelming dissent that has been following this decision since its inception and his own legal obligation to weigh the feelings of public interest into his decisions, Pai made it abundantly clear that the corporate gain from this repeal far outweighed the consumer wants or needs. Not only does this decision look to repeal neutrality, but it also hopes to get rid of the FCC as a whole, which for a long time served to keep broadband companies in check. Instead, Pai looks to shift the responsibilities of regulation to the Federal Trade Commission or FTC to handle, which may not have the legal authority to do.
Now, this isn’t the end.
Advocacy and activist groups, as well as tech companies, have descended upon the decision to sue and bring the issue to the Court of Appeals for further review. Congress has 60 days to overturn the decision via the Congressional Review Act and a majority vote against the repeal, and this is also where you can help.
Contact your representatives to do everything in their power to keep the Internet accessible for all. Let them know why it how it would hinder the country’s progress innovation-wise, educationally and even personally.
You can call them to directly speak to someone (find your rep’s number here). Make sure to keep it short, respectful and urgent.
Here is an alternative writing option as opposed to calling if that’s not your forte, in which the format is pre-programmed for you.
Net neutrality is a core tenant of creation, innovation, organization, education, entrepreneurship and sociopolitical change. Without the equal access,we’ve taken for granted thus far, the progress we make as a society become hindered by corporate monopoly and greed.
We must continue to fight to make sure that the internet remains of the people, by the people and for the people.