Chances are you’re reading this on your phone, while absent-mindedly scrolling through your feed, or at your desk, using any excuse to distract yourself from the considerable number of unclosed work tabs on your browser. Regardless of your browser of choice, one thing’s certain: the internet is ubiquitous and its function, undeniable.
Since the Internet is here to stay, we must stop and ask the necessary questions regarding private networks using public property. Is the Internet a necessity or a privilege? Do some people deserve it and others not? Having instant access to information is something we all take for granted. As soon as everybody had a smartphone, it raised the bar for what you can know at any point in time. To not have one is an immediate disadvantage.
When it comes to school, work, or even your hobbies the internet is your best resource. Using it or not could make or break your future. Almost 98% of people agree with the aforementioned statement, yet there has been an incessant back and forth within our government on whether it should be private or public (neutral). Imagine If Nestle suddenly claimed they owned all the water in the USA and now they wanted to charge extra for hot water in your house. That's essentially how internet service providers (ISPs) see user internet access.
Before the 2016 election, the FCC was almost pro-neutrailty, but that changed in 2017 when Ajit Pai was elected chairman. He notoriously supports privatization of internet services to allow business practices such as those. The US Senate unfortunately did not pass any bill protecting net neutrality, with the house majority ruling against. It is now up to the individual states to decide where they stand. Luckily California signed the California Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018, designed to protect net neutrality, and it is lauded as the “gold standard” for net neutrality laws. Hopefully they can set the precedent for other states.
The importance of a free, open internet is lost on a lot of people. There are other places in the world where having an open internet is a completely foreign concept. You pay for what you want out of your service, which seems normal since if you want more, you pay more. What most people don’t understand is that allowing practices such as these can open the door for many other nefarious things. Certain sites might cost you extra data, or they could throttle your data just so you’d upgrade. Basically they’d have a monopoly on the internet.
Our Republican leadership clearly is a fan of this model, as it obviously would line their pockets. I don't blame them however. The nature of our country encourages this sort of business tactic; I call it the hook and squeeze. You see it everywhere from streaming to dating apps, and the only way to keep it from spreading to the internet as a whole is to get out and vote. Educate yourself on the topic further if you value your digital freedom and make as much noise about it as possible. Your state has the ability to regulate their own ISP so call your local congressperson and make your stance known. The world wide web has been a staple in our society for the past twenty years, and the best part is being able to have the freedom to learn, play, and explore freely. Don’t let it fall through our fingers now.