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Net neutrality may get another chance

By Rose Younglove
On November 20, 2018

Net neutrality was not on the November ballot, but its supporters were. 

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat, was re-elected in the recent midterm election and has written several public statements on net neutrality. 

On Sept. 29, 2017, Stabenow shared an article discussing senators’ hopes to bring better resources to rural America.

“In order for our small towns to thrive and compete in the 21st-century economy, they need access to high speed internet,” she said in a tweet.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal the 2015 net neutrality rules on Dec. 14, 2017. The vote went into effect on June 11, 2018.  

Some MCCC students have strong opinions on the issue. 

“Net Neutrality is the freedom of the internet,” said student Aleija Rodriguez. “It’s the requirement that all websites be given the same internet speed regardless of the provider or what the website is covering.”

He offered an example to explain why net neutrality is important.

“Say Comcast is having a fight with Amazon,” he said. 

“Without net neutrality, what they could do is they could slow down service to Amazon to force that company to sort of bend to the will of the Internet Service Provider.”

Rodriguez also discussed the creation of “fast lanes.” ISPs could impact business rates through websites speeds.

“If business X can pay more for faster internet, then more people will go to that website, and then the smaller websites who can’t afford that will kind of get shunted to the side,” he said.

Businesss Professor Dustin Rayburn also commented on the subject.

“While most of us may agree that there is content on the web that we feel should be limited, are we sure that the decision to do so should rest in the hands of the provider or even a governmental agency?”  

With the internet playing such a significant role in our lives, student Donald Thomas said repealing Net Neutrality holds too much risk.

“It is called neutrality as it forces ISPs from being able to throttle or boost the speed that your content is broadcast or downloaded on the internet, ” he said.

Monroe’s representative in Congress, Republican Rep. Tim Walberg, supported the repeal of net neutrality. He believes it was restricting American business.

“Heavy-handed, 1930s-era regulations are no way to ensure a free and open internet,” Walberg said in a tweet.

Walberg’s tweet was in response to an article by Ajit Pai, the Chairman of the FCC.

“Glad the FCC is committed to enabling innovation and ensuring America remains a global leader,” Walberg said. “Now,  let’s work together to close the digital divide and allow the internet to flourish.”

The original tweet, which Walberg responded to, was written on Nov. 21, 2017, by Pai.

“Today, I’m proposing to repeal the heavy-handed Internet regulations imposed by the Obama Administration and to return to the light-touch framework under which the Internet developed and thrived before 2015,” Pai said.

It appears a Reese’s mug isn’t the only thing Ajit Pai holds in his hands. The repeal affects all Americans, especially students.

“Net Neutrality is the freedom of the internet. It’s the requirement that all websites be given the same internet
speed regardless of the provider or what the website is covering.” Aleijia Rodriguez, MCCC student

“It’s very important that students at any education level be able to access information without worrying that the speed will be shortened,” Rodriguez said.

“Say I need to access research papers from a specific website but maybe my Internet Service Provider has blocked that website or slowed down the speed that it takes me to access it,” he said.

Gretchen Whitmer, the newly elected Michigan governor, also defended the need for net neutrality.

“Where is Michigan?” Whitmer wrote in a tweet. “For the sake of our economy, we need to fight for fair and equal access to internet.”

With the internet being a fundamental aspect of work and education, fairness is necessary, Rodriguez said.

Thomas noted that many students don’t understand the long-reaching consequences of the repeal.

“[They] trust the free market fully – would say to let the internet service providers go free and the market decide the prices and bylaws of the internet. 

“They don’t understand that if you break it down there are only a handful of ISPs per region in a way that there would be limited to no competition. This borders on a monopoly just enough that they can get away with this while we are left with the inability to get the best bang for our buck when it comes to an ISP,” Thomas said.

Rayborn also noted that ISPs can favor their own content. 

“What also gets a bit fuzzy is when ISP’s not only provide the access, but may also deliver their own content or content of their affiliates,” Rayburn said.

Thomas said ISPs will all but gain the ability to blackmail corporations. 

“Unless you are a large corporation or have the money to pay the ISPs, then I doubt you will last long,” he said.

Rayborn pointed out that some restrictions already exist.

“Both businesses and consumers already face restrictions on the content speed they have access to due to the limitation of services that are available in their respective locations and what we are willing to pay for,” he said.

So why was this important to the last election? How can Debbie Stabenow reinstate net neutrality? 

“Since the FCC is part of the executive branch, it really became a question of, ‘Well now, is it time for Congress to step in and start making some sort of legislation?’ ” Rodriguez said.

Pai initiated the repeal of net neutrality soon after he was appointed by President Trump. 

“It became a question of, ‘Okay, well, if it’s Congress’ place to do it, then who’s going to be in support of that?” Rodriguez said.

Stabenow’s Democratic Party is still in the minority in the Senate after the mid-term elections, but Democrats have taken over control of the U.S. House, putting Walberg into the minority party.

That could lead to a reconsideration of the issue. 

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