Net Neutrality Rules to be Repealed on April 23rd, 2018
By Dakota Sullivan, Vol. 21 Student Writer

What is net neutrality? Generally, people assume content on the internet is freely accessible, regardless of the type of content. However, without net neutrality, that is not the case. “The principle of net neutrality is that all data on the Internet should be treated the same with no discrimination based on user, content, or platform.”[1] Since President Donald Trump appointed Ajit Pai to head the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), a threat to net neutrality has arisen, worrying many people. Ajit Pai was the former in-house counsel of Verizon and was appointed by President Barack Obama to fill a Republican position within the FCC. Since the announcement of the repeal of net neutrality, “[n]early two dozen state attorneys general have filed a suit in federal court challenging the rules that would replace them, which require Internet Service Providers to disclose any blocking, throttling or prioritization of content and leave it to the public to make a stink if ISPs aren't acting fairly.”[2] Under Title II Net Neutrality regulations of the Communications Act, the FCC had the authority to prevent internet service providers from blocking, censoring, or interfering with any legal content on the internet.[3] However, on December 14th, 2017, Title II was gutted by the FCC per Chairman Pai’s proposal.

Many are opposed to the repeal of the rule. However, proponents of the repeal have argued that it is merely a shift in scheme of enforcement. According the Chairman Pai, “[t]he United States is simply making a shift from preemptive regulation which foolishly presumes that every last wireless company is an anti-competitive monopolist to targeted enforcement based on actual market failure or anti-competitive conduct."[4] Regardless of the way one looks at net neutrality, the potential impact on minority groups that rely on the internet’s platform is concerning. For the most part, these groups rely on the internet to fight back against discrimination.

For instance, the massive #MeToo movement has made a profound impact on our society. Never before in human history have victims of sexual violence had such a powerful platform to share their trauma with the world and hold those accountable in the court of public opinion. Even the slightest chance of censorship could be devastating. What are we telling sexual violence victims, as a society, when we allow internet service providers to limit or censor their new platform? Operating under the assumption that the internet service providers would do such a thing, society would be portraying to the victims that their message to the world and their trauma is insignificant. Such an occurrence would be a travesty. #MeToo was started 10 years ago by an African-American woman on twitter.[5] If net neutrality hadn’t existed, how many thousands of victims would not have shared their story if #MeToo was censored by internet service providers? Even if one individual was not able to share their story, such an occurrence is disheartening.

States have responded to the threat of net neutrality’s repeal by passing state legislation. The State of Washington has passed the strongest legislation, which applies to all internet service providers who are offering their services to Washington residents. It requires that all of the internet services in Washington be “free from blocking or throttling of legal online content.”[6] With states instituting federal legal claims and passing legislation, the future of the open internet seems to be safe for now. However, what little power internet consumers had under net neutrality could be shifting to the internet service providers.

 

[1] Larry N. Zimmerman, Net Neutrality: The Sequel, J. Kan. B. Ass'n, March 2017

[2] Edward C. Baig, FCC Chair Ajit Pai defends net neutrality repeal to doubters at Mobile World Congress, USA Today (Feb. 26th, 2018) https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2018/02/26/fcc-chair-ajit-pai-defends-net-neutrality-repeal-skeptics-mobile-world-congress/373967002/.

[3] FreePress, Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know Now, Save the Internet https://www.savetheinternet.com/net-neutrality-what-you-need-know-now.

[4] Edward C. Baig, FCC Chair Ajit Pai defends net neutrality repeal to doubters at Mobile World Congress, USA Today (Feb. 26th, 2018) https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2018/02/26/fcc-chair-ajit-pai-defends-net-neutrality-repeal-skeptics-mobile-world-congress/373967002/.

[5] Leah Thomas, Net Neutrality Repeal Would Hurt #Metoo Movement and Minority Women, News Week (Dec. 13th, 2017 5:55 PM) http://www.newsweek.com/metoo-movement-and-minority-women-will-be-hurt-if-net-neutrality-killed-747252.

[6] Fast Company, Washington Just Passed the Country’s Toughest Net Neutrality Legislation, (Feb. 28th, 2018) https://www.fastcompany.com/40537222/washington-just-passed-the-countrys-toughest-net-neutrality-legislation.