End of the internet? FCC rolls back net neutrality

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A free and open Internet is an accepted fact of today’s society, but it may not be for long.  Currently, users are free to visit websites as they please thanks to net neutrality rules, which prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from interfering with online websites and services. For example, the rules prevent AT&T from restricting Netflix because of their competing television services.

This could change soon. Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and former Verizon lawyer, announced plans to repeal net neutrality rules, which passed 3-2 on Dec. 14. Calling the Internet “the greatest free-market success story in history,” Pai is determined to end government regulations on ISPs. Congressional Democrats have vowed to fight this decision.

Some Lincoln students have expressed concerns over the rapid changes the Internet could be seeing as a result of these new rules.

“It’s such a dramatic transition,” sophomore Will McCormick said. “Imagine the restrictions PPS puts on websites, but everywhere, all the time.”

Repealing net neutrality rules could do a lot more than block Netflix. Business Insider argues that repealing the rules “could mean real trouble for [small] companies hoping to be the next Netflix, Amazon or Google.” By giving so much power to large Internet corporations, Insider argues that it “decreases the chances for innovation,”stifling change on the Internet.

Meanwhile, Slate predicts that repealing net neutrality could also lead to media censorship, giving control of the narrative over to these same corporations. Ironically, they predict that this will backfire on the same conservatives that voted to repeal them, as “liberal-leaning ISPs … censor conservative voices on the Internet.” The age of “fake news”, as President Trump is so fond of putting it, could only grow larger.

Some argue that repealing net neutrality would have positive effects in the long run. Forbes’ Josh Steimle argues that “free speech cannot exist without privacy,” and that a government-monitored Internet cannot be trusted to keep personal information safe. By scaling back government regulations on the Internet, it could help prohibit government surveillance.

The Internet is perhaps the most-used form of communication and information in the world today. As such, it’s important to recognize the drastic changes, good or bad, that repealing these rules will have on its future.