Net neutrality’s impact on internet access

The Federal Communications Commision voted in favor of repealing Obama-era rules regulating businesses that connect users to the internet Dec. 12, 2017.

The dismantled regulations effectively banned internet service providers from blocking certain content or charging more for specific services. The FCC vote grants ISPs the ability to create paid “fast lanes” for premium subscribers and slow down, or “throttle,” the connection speed for users who do not pay an extra fee.

Department of Communications Chair Butler Cain offered an explanation.

“Basically the idea behind net neutrality is that the organizations that control or provide access to the internet, like your cable providers, are not making value judgements on the content (of the internet), and they are not trying to speed up certain content that they support or prevent you from accessing content that they don’t promote,” he said.

The vote will also allow ISPs to create specific plans based on a consumer’s usage of the internet. This could mean users would pay extra for services like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube.

The Obama administration passed the net neutrality rules in 2015 and reclassified the internet as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Title II was designed to protect individuals from a denial to basic services due to low income.

The addition of broadband services to Title II declared that internet access was a basic human right and categorized the internet amongst services like telephones and electricity.

Senior Larry Porter said he agrees that internet access is a basic human right.

“(The internet) is a form of communication, and, as far as time has told, communication has always been a right for the people to have,” he said. “Whether it be talking, messages or letters, we’ve always had the right to express ourselves (to each other) and the internet is just another means to do so.”

The reversal of the Title II classification of the internet could have a direct impact on students, specifically those who participate in online classes. Students may be forced to pay more for vital streaming services that are often used in online courses. ISPs would also have the ability to charge more for certain apps that are a part of a student’s curriculum.

Anti-net neutrality advocates contend the regulations gave the government too much control over the internet, and the reversal of the constricting statute would spur investment in the ISP sector.

Several Democratic members of Congress are already forming a plan to contest the FCC ruling.