Net neutrality has officially been repealed. Now what?
On June 11, the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of net neutrality officially went into effect. This will have significant effects on the internet as we know it today, but Congress has already invoked the Congressional Review Act in an attempt to overturn the repeal.
The Senate has passed it, but the House has not yet voted. What does all this mean for your daily life, and what does it mean for journalism?
To start, if you’re not familiar with some of the terms in the first paragraph, don’t worry. Essentially, the Federal Communications Commission regulates interstate and international communications and enforces America’s communications laws and regulations.
Net neutrality is the concept that internet service providers must treat all data the same, so they can’t charge more or change the download speed of any data because of type of user, content, website, platform or application (a practice known as throttling). ISPs can’t throttle sites they don’t agree with, or sites that other ISPs create. Lately, the term has been used to describe a series of past laws from the FCC that made those principles law.
FCC commissioner, Ajit Pai, wants to reverse many of those laws, because doing so will foster more competition and improve innovation, he said. Those who support net neutrality are concerned because internet access could become more expensive, with providers able to charge extra for each service.
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The quality of service could also be affected and some websites might be completely blocked.
There has been an outpouring of opposition, and in response Congress invoked the Congressional Review Act, a law Congress can use to overturn regulations made by various federal government agencies – including the FCC.
If a regulation is overturned under the CRA, it cannot be reissued in substantially the same form. So far, the CRA has passed in the Senate, but still has to be voted on in the House and approved by the president.
For consumers, the repeal of net neutrality could mean having to pay higher rates for internet access depending on what you use it for – for example, social media sites might cost extra per month and streaming could be slowed significantly.
Websites you don’t pay for could be blocked or service to certain websites could be slowed down considerably, depending on who your ISP is and what content that ISP wants you to access.
The internet would not be the same free-access platform it is today, which raises concerns that what was once a leveler and equalizer will become one more resource only those with money can fully access.
For journalism, the repeal of net neutrality could be disastrous. Many news organizations have moved to digital content as print becomes too expensive to maintain – but if the internet becomes too expensive, more and more news organizations could be forced to close.
Smaller websites could be blocked out by internet providers, and customers, when faced with having to pay more for access to news sites, might choose not to visit at all.
Net neutrality rules also control how many homes a single broadband provider can reach, and the FCC said it will revisit regulations on how many TV stations a single company can own.
A rule controlling mergers between TV and newspaper organizations has already been abolished, so smaller news organizations are in even more danger, and one large company, like Sinclair, could end up controlling all news, a prospect that threatens democracy itself.
The internet needs to remain free and open, for the good of journalism, for the good of democracy and for the simple good of being able to pay one price and access everything from Netflix to the Wikipedia page about the first bicycle.
The Daily Wildcat supports net neutrality, and urges you to as well. Call your representatives in the House (Find them at https://www.battleforthenet.com/) and ask them to overturn the repeal of net neutrality. The fate of the internet we know today quite literally depends on it.
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