Net Neutrality in 2017 - What You Should Know

Well, it looks like the internet is in a shitty place again, and it had to happen just when I was beginning to really enjoy it. My Twitter feed has been immaculately assembled such that every morning I can enjoy raunchy “Game of Thrones” recaps and NBA memes, and my willingness to participate in Reddit AMAs has peaked.

Unfortunately, however, great content isn’t what I’m worried about – that has certainly been safeguarded by our favorite bloggers, journalists, and creators; instead, I’m thoroughly terrified by the impending fetters to be placed on our access to it. Our new administration and its overhaul of several government institutions has hit the FCC, and newly appointed chairman Ajit Pai has since spearheaded the dismantling of net neutrality rules that lawfully enforce our free and open internet.

Long story short, if ISPs and the FCC get their way, you will no longer have the liberty to have on-command access to any website or online service. Your gateway to the internet will be limited by your budget, as well as what your ISPs have been paid to shove down your throat. That means if Bing offers Comcast a hefty penny, you’ll never make another Google search for as long as you live. Yeah, it’s that bad.

I guess we should first discuss the details of net neutrality and why things have gotten so out of hand this year. The term stems from a litany of rules and legislation enacted to prevent internet providers from arbitrarily manipulating your access to certain websites. Obviously, you can understand why this is huge – it’s your prerogative to use Google over Bing, YouTube over Vimeo, CNN over Fox News, and vice versa. The fact that these choices can in some way be infringed upon is an inherent violation of the internet’s founding principle to disseminate unfiltered information.

Thankfully, laws were passed in 2015 to prevent this unjust garbage from happening (thanks, Obama), and until last month, things were good. The new FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, has mounted a crusade to repeal such legislation that he vehemently opposed the passing of in 2015. Without these provisions in place – I’m going to try my best to supplant unnecessary political rhetoric and official bashing – a small subset of uncompetitive broadband providers will have full control over our access to the internet. They’ll be able to block some sites, throttle the speeds for others, and charge you obscene rates to use what’s left. A striking and innate disruption of the internet’s core values, opposition to net neutrality is gaining major traction, and billions are being spent by Comcast, TWC, and AT&T to keep the ball rolling.

Ultimately, we have to see the FCC rollback for what it is: an outlandish corporate handout that engenders egregious internet fees and regulated content grappled by political and industry interest.

This is one of those articles where I feel like a “so what?” addendum is strikingly unnecessary – our only reason to care is that it’s profoundly wrong – but on this occasion I very much want to beat the dead horse. Given that Reddit, Amazon, Twitter, Google, and Facebook have all rallied in support of net neutrality, it should be a dead giveaway that these rollbacks seek only to benefit ISPs and their current monopolistic stranglehold on how we get connected. Of course there’ll always be a few scummy enterprises that seek to misuse such proposed regulations, but this is really about four internet providers unwilling to relinquish control of what has become a global utility with influence tantamount to water and electricity. All of the data in the world is already controlled by a handful of technology titans (throwback to another piece I’ve written), and to think that the same will unfold with the only avenue to access that data is beyond frightening.

So this piece goes out to all the Twitter trolls, 4Chan shitposters, Reddit educators, dedicated journalists, self-made freelancers, and any other purveyor of the internet. Thank you for all you do. The internet, in my 19-year-old opinion, is the most important resource in the world, for through the knowledge derived from this medium, our world is made largely a better place, with our exchange of information exalted over any physical or social barrier. So, please do your part to protect it.

Disclaimer: I’m a hopeful. I think the internet is for the most part a wonderful place.

Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images