By Tanner Harris
The time has come to decide the fate of net neutrality.
Update: On Dec. 14, the FCC repealed net neutrality. It now goes to Congress for a vote.
Ajit Pai, current chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and four other government officials were originally set to vote on Nov. 22, but the date was pushed back to Dec. 14. Two of the five officials oppose repealing the current laws and only more vote is needed to uphold it.
Pai originally proposed to revoke the rules of net neutrality in the United States back in April, and his agenda has been picking up steam ever since, according to an article from The LA Times.
Net neutrality means that all content on the Internet is free and accessible. Although Internet Service Providers such as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast are allowed to block child pornography and certain types of spam, they are not allowed to tamper with or limit consumers’ access and connection speeds to other content, websites, and applications that are accessible through the world wide web.
Zuriat Iriafef, 22, a freshman biology major, said that the move would certainly place the large ISPs in a position of their own self-interest.
“We need to find a way to combat it. [Repealing net neutrality] wouldn’t be the in the interest of the general population and what they think is right…we could see a slowing down of potential movements, processes, or laws,” said Iriafef.
Richard Gearheart, assistant professor of economics at CSU Bakersfield, said the move is most likely a special interest one.
“I think [the FCC] couldn’t come up with a way to properly alter the tax code… so [revoking] net neutrality is the closest thing,” said Gearheart.
Without net neutrality, ISPs could create fast and slow lanes of access depending on a consumer’s given plan, limit speeds to competitors’ websites, block political opinions it does not favor and charge extra to access certain portions of the internet.
Andrew Thomas Kelley, 20, a sophomore triple major in anthropology, physics, and biochemistry, said he thinks it’s wrong for large companies to regulate the internet.
“The large companies are trying to exploit people for money. It’s predatory,” said Kelley.
Pai, who became FCC Commissioner under the Obama administration and was directly appointed to his current position of Chairman by President Trump in January, was formerly a lawyer for Verizon. He said that the current laws on net neutrality adopted in 2015 harm investment and are counter-intuitive.
Pai said he wishes to repeal the “utility-style regulation” of the current laws under the Restore Internet Freedom act.
“The evidence so far strongly suggests that this is the right way to go,” said Pai.
Gearheart said that the move would certainly cripple many Americans economically.
“It’s tremendously detrimental; the biggest burden of this falls on the middle class and on small businesses, who are going to be absolutely annihilated,” said Gearheart.
After opening their servers to receive public opinion on the act in May, the FCC received more than 1.3 million comments that were in favor of repealing net neutrality.
However, research from programmers like Jeff Kao of Hackernoon.com found that these comments were sent by copy-and-paste bots using stolen Americans’ identities via mail-merge (software to send mass identical emails). More than 99% of the 800,000 user-submitted responses were in favor of retaining current net neutrality laws.
David Porter, 20, a sophomore computer science major and part of Internet Service Technologies (IT) on CSUB’s campus, said that the system seems to have gone awry.
“There’s a reason government exists, [and] it’s not to cater to businesses. The flow of information would be affected for sure. They want to take what we have now and make people pay more for it,” said Porter.
Celebrities including “The Hulk” actor Mark Ruffalo, “The Fault In Our Stars” author John Green, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg all oppose Pai revoking the current laws of net neutrality according to TheDailyDot.com and TechInAsia.com. In addition to Zuckerberg, many heads of business actively support keeping the current net neutrality laws.
On the other end of the spectrum, many heads of ISPs support repealing net neutrality.
CEO of Comcast Brian Roberts supports the move.
“[W]e fully support reversal of Title II classification because it harms investment and innovation,” said Roberts. “To be clear, we continue to strongly support a free and open internet.”
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that the company supports the venture, calling the current protections stifling and illogical.
“[Repealing net neutrality will create] a clearer path to invest more in our nation’s broadband infrastructure,” said Stephenson.
Chip Pickering, CEO of the Incompas trade group, whose members include companies such as Amazon and Netflix, said he had concerns about the future of small businesses should net neutrality be repealed.
“Abandoning net neutrality principles threatens to kill the streaming revolution and will hurt businesses, large and small,” said Chip Pickering.
Brendan Carr, conservative commissioner on the FCC, actively supports repealing net neutrality and has publicly endorsed Pai’s plan.
“I think it’s a great document. I think it’s great for consumers. I think it’s great for innovators. I think it’s going to be great for freedom on the internet as well,” said Carr in an interview with C-Span.
Large companies such as Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast, the nation’s most common ISPs, have filed more than 275 lobbying reports and paid more than 75 million dollars collectively trying to repeal net neutrality between 2005 and 2013, according to TheDailyDot.com.
Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight For The Future, a nonprofit digital rights advocacy group founded in 2011, said Pai still has his higher-ups to answer to.
“Pai has made it clear he doesn’t care what…anyone else other than big telecom companies think…But he has to answer to Congress, so the best way for people to make their voices heard right now is to contact their lawmakers and tell them to stop the FCC from voting on this absurd proposal,” said Greer.
The American public still has time to become involved with the issue of net neutrality. Some ways to do this include signing online petitions and emailing the voting government officials, or contacting them by texting “Resist” to Resistbot at 50409.
Ajit Pai (R, revoke net neutrality): Ajit.firstname.lastname@example.org
Mignon Clyburn (D, support net neutrality): Mignon.email@example.com
Michael O’Reilly (R, undecided): MikeOReilley@fcc.gov
Brendan Carr (R, revoke net neutrality): Brendan.firstname.lastname@example.org
Jessica Rosenworcel (D, support net neutrality): Jessica.Rosenworcel@fcc.gov
Photo: Andrew Paradez
On Monday, Nov. 27, CSU Bakersfield students surfed the Internet tirelessly for research for their classes.