Commentary

Another Battle For The Net

After spending a long day at Tokyo DisneySea with my family over Thanksgiving, I sank into bed, phone in hand, ready for my daily dose of memes from the “reddit.com” forum “dankmemes.”As my finger tapped the Reddit icon, the application opened to reveal link after link from different subreddits with the same address: “https://www.battleforthenet.com.”

I vaguely remember hearing about this “battle for the net” back in 2015. The battle that took place two years ago refers to the government’s attempt to dismantle net neutrality, and now, the government is trying to do this once again. According to “Fortune,” the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) — the branch of U.S. government in charge of radio, TV, and the web — plans to eradicate current regulations and give Internet Service Providers (ISPs) absolute freedom to manipulate internet costs and bandwidth. If their plan is successful, Americans will soon face the repercussions, which may include limited access to information and significantly slower loading speeds on certain websites. We will be vulnerable to any kind of abuse that Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, and other telecom companies have in mind without governmental protection. Sound harrowing? I think so too.

Ajit Pai, chairman of the FCC and ex-Verizon employee, claims that he is, in fact, making a noble effort to end governmental “micromanagement over markets.” Pai, in an interview with “NPR,” stated that his new plan will “benefit digital consumers and entrepreneurs alike.” However, I am not convinced. I believe that what Pai has plotted clearly violates a fundamental aspect of our modern lifestyle: fair and equal access to the world wide web.

I will first acknowledge the fact that there is a line between greed-driven corporate manipulation and fair management, the differentiating factor being the intention of the company (whether it wants to benefit the people or profit off of them). That said, I firmly believe that the FCC’s decision to repeal the Title II order, a bedrock safety perimeter Obama created back in 2015, is an act of the former kind, aimed at making the big telecom corporations even wealthier.

No matter how Pai decides to frame it, the repeal of net neutrality is not at all about eliminating “a tyrannical censorship” over the people’s liberty. It would enable corporations to block whatever data traffic they wish, and essentially, control which websites load instantly and which take forever to buffer, throttling healthy competition and opposing views as they see fit. The removal of net neutrality will not make the internet freer; rather, it will only rig the (mostly) fair and even playing field that exists today against blooming start-ups and everyday civilians.

Though the initial response of internet users appeared to be mixed, a recent study conducted by data scientist Jeff Kao revealed that most of the posted comments to FCC’s proposal to repeal net neutrality protections on their website were fabricated, and only “800,000 of the 22 million total comments were likely to be original and that 99 percent of them supported [current] net neutrality” regulations. This only proves that behind his fancy suit and corporate jargon, Pai is willing to play dirty, especially when he knows he has the backing of President Donald Trump. We should keep in mind that although Pai was appointed by Obama — someone whose views do not align with his own — Trump was the one who promoted him to the position of chairman back in January. Furthermore, revocation of Title II was not attempted when Obama was still in the White House; it happened only after Trump took his place. This may imply that the Trump administration in whole is capable of manipulation through shady tactics.

I used to think that liberal Americans were the ones who took things a little too far regarding certain policies, but this incident was an eye opener. I hope it’s also one for those who still believe that Trump is going to “Make America Great Again” by yielding even more power to telecom corporations.

Even after sending emails in a desperate attempt to preserve my right to fair internet access, I felt the urge to call my hometown’s representatives. Thankfully, my county’s supervisors are already in support of net neutrality, but this is not the case for most of the country. I hope that on the morning of December 14, when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) votes on the plan to repeal the regulations, I will wake up to the same internet we all know and love.

Dec 8, 2017