When surfing the net you expect to be connected to all of the internet's weird and wonderful content the web has to offer, surf long enough and sometimes you can end up in the dark side of the woods lil red rider.
But that is the beauty of the net, it connects people from all sides of the globe and allows an interconnected vine of information and knowledge to reach those in not so informed countries. As a user, you expect complete net neutrality, but in America, that may soon be in jeopardy and fast.
The federal communications commission voted on Thursday the 14th of December to abolish rules regulating networking providers. This could potentially mean broadband companies would gain more power to possibly reshape peoples networking rights.
What is net neutrality?
Net neutrality is basically the prime principle that web providers follow of allowing users access to all content online regardless of the source, this means a non-bias internet that does not favour or block specific sites. It preserves us the right to view any applications as freely as we want.
Net neutrality is essentially the guidelines that allow the internet to enable and protect free speech, one that does not block or shut down content or websites that override those networks.
However, without Net Neutrality this could all change. Your ISP (i.e. BT) could start to influence what you see and how fast you see it. This is where the problem lies because in order to browse the internet you need an ISP, and if BT starts favouring one company over another, by providing faster streaming services for people willing to pay, this will affect smaller organizations that can't afford the fee that large companies are more than happy to dish out.
This will also affect not just what we see (ie. quality of streaming can also be affected) but also costs could be passed down to the consumer. Premium prices would be charged to customers wanting to use content at peak times, which could truly turn the net into a cash in hand system, favouring the wealthy and powerful.
In turn, less competition could mean less pressure to keep the quality of these services improved. The ISP companies are arguing that more money spent on services could be reinvested into better infrastructure.
But let's say Youtube had to pay more for there streaming services why would it be up to them to do so, just as it wouldn't be BMW's responsibility to build better roads right? Much of the profits made by ISPs would most likely fall into the pockets of big cats so where do we draw the line. Your ISP shouldn’t interfere with the content you view or post online. At the end of the day, what is the internet if not free right?
In the meantime, Net Neutrality regulations will be scrapped and the rules that prohibit networking providers from blocking or altering specific content will now be left to the networking companies to oversee themselves.High-speed internet will also no longer be regulated, like phone services and that means more power to conglomerate business.
This action backtracked the Americas 2015 decisions, to have a more powerful supervision over broadband providers. The repeal will take weeks to go into effect so changes won't be seen right away. But as seen in the upcoming weeks political and legal fights have started in defiance.
Democratic state attorneys generals, including Eric T. Schneiderman, have said they would file a suit to stop the changes, along with various other public interest groups including Public Knowledge, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Google and Facebook are also looking to take legal action against this repeal.
Ajit Pai the commission's chairman defended the repeal before the vote and said the backtrack of the rules would benefit consumers because broadband providers like AT&T and Comcast could offer people a variety of service options.
Mr Pai has come out saying “We are helping consumers and promoting competition.” He went on to add that “Broadband providers will have more incentive to build networks, especially to underserved areas.”
However, this could also mean the start of systemic censoring as we know it, and when powerful hands are in the mix this can only spell trouble not only for America but for neighbouring countries too.
How is this going to impact you?
Changes have sparked some critics to speak out, saying that the average consumer will have difficulty accessing content online, with some startup companies having to pay a fee to reach customers. The past week has seen an uproar of hundreds taking to the streets to protest against this repeal.
The F.C.C (an independent government agency which controls interstate and international communications via tv and radio), has also come out saying that it will no longer oversee the interactions of broadband companies.
Telecom experts have expressed their concerns claiming that companies will be freer to come up with offerings, such as faster tiers of service for online businesses willing to pay. This, in turn, could mean some of the costs being passed down to the consumer. Prioritization could also censor many political voices the internet gives a platform to so freely.
Why should we fight this?
Without these rules that were put there in place for a reason, companies will be able to have full control and make final decisions on which websites can and can't thrive online. Companies will ultimately have the authority to slow down competitors content and much more.
In layman's terms marginalized and minority community media outlets could be deeply affected by this changes. Minorities, LGBTQ, indigenous people and religious entities so often rely on the web to organize economic and educational opportunities for the many and fight against prejudice and corruption, which now more than ever sings true to many.
Net neutrality is essential in how activists fight oppressive systems, what will happen to social movements like the popular hashtag Black Lives Matter?
The world wide web allows people to voice their opinions and stories for the world to view. Racial justice and protests are seen often assembling through various organized groups whether that be through Facebook, Twitter or other media outlets.
Thousands can be informed at a tap of a button, without this freedom that we so greatly take for granted, we as a whole can stop injustice and bring cities to a standstill, without this, the internet will no longer be the internet but a system controlled form of oppressive technology.
The mainstream media have so often tarnished and misrepresented many. Institutionalised racism, economic inequality and the most vulnerable voices in society have long been neglected. The lack of information has disenfranchised Americans in current mainstream media and is one of many reasons why people have replaced TV with an alternative, the internet. What will this mean for the rest of the world when a major leading country like America begins the process of withholding information from US citizens, could this be the start of a Truman show episode.
Net neutrality is vital and gives us all a platform to view and speak on issues, emerging changes and worldly news without this, people businesses and news could deeply be affected. But what are we if not resilient and hey there's always Tor (aka the deep dark web).
To make your voice heard sign up to the Net Neutrality petition.