Last December, the Federal Communications Commission under Ajit Pai voted on the net neutrality repeal to make it so that internet providers can charge more for services and even prohibit users from using certain websites. Today is the first day of the repeal, and while it looks bad, all is not lost. Politicians on the local and federal levels are working to reinstate the net neutrality rules. So here’s a quick rundown of what’s happening.
What is net neutrality?
Net neutrality is the idea that your internet service provider (ISP) can’t change their speed on sites they don’t support: It doesn’t matter if you’re looking at The Washington Post or Str8UpGayPorn, your ISP can’t throttle your speed so your porn loads super-slowly, and if your ISP is a fan of Trump, they can’t block the WaPo. But without net neutrality, if your ISP is anti-LGBTQ, they could block or throttle access to Hornet.
Net neutrality isn’t just about free speech; net neutrality also helps innovation. Streaming sites like Netflix are a big reason people are abandoning cable TV. But cable TV providers have often expanded into being ISPs as well. So it’s not far-fetched to think a company like Comcast could throttle Netflix (or other innovative content providers) and make it impossible to watch a movie or other content without constant buffering.
So what’s the deal with the net neutrality repeal?
Even though net neutrality has widespread bipartisan support, ISPs have long wanted the net neutrality repeal. It’s not surprising it’s under Ajit Pai that the FCC repealed it — prior to joining the FCC, he was the associate general counsel at Verizon, a longtime opponent of net neutrality.
If you’re curious what life would look like without net neutrality, just look at Portugal. Internet plans there are broken out by the sites you’d like to visit. If you want to use messaging services, that’s a €5 add-on. If you want to use Facebook and Twitter? Another €5. Email? That’s €5. Netflix? You guessed it — and that’s on top of your Netflix membership fees.
Are we stuck with the net neutrality repeal?
Thankfully, not necessarily. A number of states have passed state-level legislation re-enacting the net neutrality rules. On the federal level, last month, a bill reinstating net neutrality passed the Senate; it’s headed to the House of Representatives now. While it’s believed the bill will die in the House, given its Republican majority, it’s still worth fighting for. As mentioned, net neutrality has bipartisan support amongst Americans, even if the GOP as a national organization stands against it.
If you’re interested in keeping Net Neutrality around, the best thing you can do is call your representatives. Sites like 5calls.org provide numbers and even a script to use if you’re uncomfortable on the phone. This is especially important if your representative is Republican; as much as Republicans want to follow the party line, they want to get re-elected even more. If it’s clear their constituents are against the net neutrality repeal — and that it’s a key issue they’ll vote on — enough Republicans may be swayed. (And then, you know, you can vote them out anyway.)