It is up to Congress to keep the web free



Diagram explaining net neutrality. TNS 2017

Net neutrality has been repealed by the Federal Communications Chair (FCC) – the policy that keeps the web free from Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

This move will hurt the digital world, placing immense powers in the hands of the ISPs, like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T. Consumers will likely see higher prices for web access or slower service.

In 2003, Tim Wu, now a professor at Columbia Law School, created the term net neutrality because he saw signs of corporate control. It forced ISPs to treat all websites and internet companies equally, and some form of it has been enacted. As Politifact explained, under net neutrality, ISPs have been more like a passive conductor of data than content managers. When a customer pays Comcast or Verizon for internet service, they come expecting to connect with equal access to every legal website, whether big or small. The new FCC order will undo this concept completely.

According to the New York Times, Ajit Pai, chairman of the FCC, claimed that the repeal will promote broadband competition. However, the action will do the opposite and decrease the competition.

Without it, ISPs can place content into fast and slow lanes, and charge companies fees for having fast content. This will hurt small businesses that cannot pay these exorbitant tolls, having their content slowed down or even blocked. Forbes writes that because of this, small businesses and startups will have less of a chance to survive in the competitive market. When these businesses get their content slowed fewer consumers will access their websites and instead go to the larger companies that can pay the toll fee. Today, anyone with an internet access can build a website and sell goods in an open and fair marketplace. But with this repeal, this freedom will vanish.

It will also hurt consumers, with businesses transferring the toll on to the people using their service. For example, companies like Netflix who relies on high speed streaming will have to pass on the price onto its consumers. In effect customers will end up paying more for the same service they are using.

FCC chose to repeal net neutrality although when the majority of the population expresses support for the regulation. A survey done by the University of Maryland a week before the vote found that 83 percent of Americans, when presented with arguments for and against net neutrality, were against repealing it.

Proponents of the repeal argue that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency that the FCC gave oversight over ISPs will prevent these scenarios from happening.

However, net neutrality rules were enacted in 2015 under the Obama administration. Before this, cases of companies abusing their power happened and the FCC did not have the jurisdiction to stop them.

According to Wired, in 2008 Comcast was slowing down BitTorrent (a software) on its network. The FCC ordered Comcast to stop; however, a federal court ruled that the agency was overstepping its authority. Net neutrality rules would have stopped this kind of action.

There still is some hope for the internet. The repeal will not take effect for weeks, and there are obstacles in the way. According to the Washington Post, state attorneys and advocacy groups are lining up to sue the move.

But the best hope and next battleground lies in Congress. Under the Congressional Review Act, senators are planning to force a vote on the repeal and hopefully will let the web remain free. The internet is a platform that has changed the world and is free market. It should remain that way.