10 hours and 39 minutes. According to a 2016 study by CNN, this is how long the average American spends using the internet everyday. This could change dramatically, due to recent efforts to abolish net neutrality. Net neutrality means that everything on the internet from streaming services to Google are treated equally. Recently the chairman of the Federal Communication Commission, Ajit Pai, has proposed a bill that would abolish net neutrality. If this bill is passed, it will dramatically affect how and how long we use the internet.
When the internet was first created, it was done so without centralization, meaning that no one company or person controls it. Rather than controlling the internet, cable companies are only able to provide access to the internet. With the repeal of net neutrality, cable companies can have the ability to control how and what you use the internet for.
Initially, the internet wasn’t designed for recreational use. AP Economics teacher, Brandon Austin, says it was created more so as a safety net.
“The internet was designed with no one necessarily controlling it. The whole idea behind the internet was basically, in case of a nuclear attack or strike it wouldn’t go out. That information wouldn’t disappear. So net neutrality is the idea of keeping it that way. We don’t want anybody having total control over the internet,” said Austin.
Having cable companies controlling the internet could mean that they could tax you for certain services or even censor them all together. Cable companies would also be able to cherry-pick what services your internet plan provides. For example, a company could have only Netflix and Pandora on your plan. However, in order to unlock other services such as Spotify or Hulu, you would have to pay a tax or change you internet plan all together. This is upsetting news for sophomore, Macie Torres.
“The fact that something like this is getting so close to being an actual thing kind of scares me. It seems like it’ll only be good for cable companies and not for us,” said Torres.
The bill being proposed by F.C.C chairman Pai is called the “Restoring Internet Freedom Act.” Currently, internet access is seen as a utility service, freeing it from additional taxation. With the bill that Pai is proposing, the internet will be seen as an information service. Pai wants to do this in order to, as stated in the name of the bill, restore internet freedom. Currently, Pai believes that the internet is limited by companies such as Twitter, as he referenced in a 2016 speech in Washington DC.
“I love twitter, but lets not kid ourselves when it comes to the open internet. Twitter is a part of the problem. The company has a viewpoint and that viewpoint is to discriminate. As just one of many examples, two months ago, Twitter blocked Representative Marsha Blackburn from advertising her Senate campaign launch video because it featured a pro-life message,” said Pai.
The vote on whether to keep or abolish net neutrality will be held on December 14th. Members of the F.C.C will be the voting. Those opposed of the bill have been urged to contact their congressmen and local representatives and make their opinions heard.