Tuesday the Federal Communications Commission announced a plan to repeal net neutrality, an Obama-era policy established by the FCC in 2015 that prohibits companies and internet providers from charging more for access to some sites while blocking others.
Net neutrality prevents internet service providers from charging consumers and companies more for access to faster speeds, or striking a deal with websites to limit access to their competitors.
If repealed, the FCC would only require broadband providers to be “transparent” about their services, allowing customers and businesses to choose the service right for them.
This means that the prices you pay for streaming your favorite TV shows or scrolling through social media would be at stake. The decision would also mean that smaller websites and digital publications would suffer slower speeds, and possibly have access to their site blocked altogether.
“Verizon could strike a deal with CNN and hamper their users’ ability to access alternative news sources,” Josh Stearns of Free Press wrote. “Comcast could slow down Al Jazeera, because it wants to promote its NBC news offerings.”
Yes, the repeal of net neutrality would be a threat to your wallet, as popular sites could be placed in a “premium” tier with a paywall. Your time would be at stake as well, as smaller sites could suffer longer wait times if they can’t afford more broadband.
But the biggest threat is to our access to information — niche publications and local news sources without enough resources could find themselves left out of this capitalistic approach to the Internet. If they cannot pay premium broadband prices, small businesses and publications could find their website speeds throttled by ISPs.
“This proposal … hands broadband providers the power to decide what voices to amplify, which sites we can visit, what connections we can make, and what communities we create,” Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat who voted in favor of net neutrality in 2015 said. “It throttles access, stalls opportunity, and censors content.”
Local businesses, personal blogs and websites, as well as local and small-scale news websites are just a few of the sites at risk for virtual censorship if this repeal is successful. On the frontier of digital equality, local news and small-scale reporting efforts are at risk of being buried by premium speed prices and inorganic website prioritization.
There are still steps you can take to help prevent a net neutrality repeal. Battleforthenet.com matches you to your congressman so that you can express your concerns about the vote for net neutrality, which is happening Dec. 14. The campaign hopes to get enough calls so that Congress can stop the FCC.
“If adopted, the FCC’s plan will change the way every American gets information, watches movies, listens to music, conducts business, and talks to their families,” Sen. Brian Schatz said in a statement. “By repealing basic net neutrality protections, the FCC is handing over full control of the internet to providers, leaving the American people with few choices and less access.”