On Dec. 14, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is voting on whether or not to do away with net neutrality. The decision to reverse the Obama-era policy allowing for a free and open Internet will have strong and negative results for everyone using the Internet, like you, according to telecommunications experts. The decision comes directly from Trump-appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Pai has already said that he is confident that the measure will be passed on party lines since the five-person FCC panel is made up of three Republicans and two Democrats.
Here is what experts fear will happen to the Internet as we know it if the FCC board votes to take net neutrality away.
First, let’s define net neutrality.
— PBS (@PBS) November 27, 2017
You’ve probably seen this phrase used a lot lately, but what does it even mean? Net neutrality guarantees that Internet service providers (ISPs) like Verizon, Comcast, TimeWarner, etc. don’t slow down your service based on their benefit. The rules of net neutrality make it so that all Internet traffic is treated equally. It also ensures that these same ISPs don’t charge you extra to have a faster connection. ISPs fought against President Obama when he first started pushing these rules because they believe that they should be able to charge you more for faster service, according to the PBS video above.
Basically, eliminating net neutrality would mean that ISPs would start regulating what you can do and see on the Internet.
Do you believe that you should be able to pay one price to access every site on the internet? If the FCC ends #NetNeutrality, your ISP could decide which websites you are allowed to visit & which you have to pay extra for, on top of the monthly bill. The end of the open internet. pic.twitter.com/o1Kt8KUFFA
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) December 7, 2017
Essentially, this means that Comcast, Verizon and all other ISPs could start charging you extra for apps you already use on top of your monthly bill. You read that right. That Facebook app you are using to read this story would no longer be free and the price will vary depending on your ISP. Same with Netflix, Twitter, Amazon or any other site or app you use. You’d have to pay an additional amount per app/site. That means many people, particularly low-income households, would have a harder time accessing information online.
Another problem with this kind of freedom for the ISPs is that they can start blocking content from reaching your computer for phone. Remember the scandal Comcast was in when they overcharged customers for equipment they never requested? Well, if you use Comcast for your Internet, Comcast could block you from ever seeing the news reports investigating their questionable practices.
While there has been outcry against changing the rules, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating the use of fake comments to dilute the pushback.
1M fake comments on #netneutrality may have been submitted using stolen identities—including those of as many as 50K New Yorkers. The @FCC must delay its vote until we find out what happened here. pic.twitter.com/dNHtbMnr7N
— Eric Schneiderman (@AGSchneiderman) December 7, 2017
Fortune reports that more than half of the 21.7 million comments opposed to the rule change have likely been written by fake accounts using the names of real people. The implication of this is that the voices of real Americans opposed to the rule change are being diluted and ignored because of bots and trolls claiming to be in favor of eliminating net neutrality. Attorney General Schneiderman has created a website where you can search and flag any fake comment made on your behalf to help with his overall investigation. You can find out if your name has been used by clicking here. Attorney General Schneiderman created the website because the FCC has refused to help investigate whether or not fake comments have been used in this debate.
Experts fear that giving ISPs the ability to self-regulate data going to consumers can have strong negative impacts.
If you're reading this, the end of #NetNeutrality would hurt you.
Our experts are going live on Reddit at 2pm ET to answer any questions you have about the FCC's upcoming vote. https://t.co/2wdt3W2bS0
— ACLU (@ACLU) December 7, 2017
“ISPs have incentives to shape Internet traffic and the FCC knows full well of instances where consumers have been harmed. AT&T blocked data sent by Apple’s FaceTime software, Comcast has interfered with Internet traffic generated by certain applications and ISPs have rerouted users’ web searches to websites they didn’t request or expect,” Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz said in a statement. “These are just some examples of ISPs controlling our Internet experience. Users pay them to connect to the Internet, not decide for them what they can see and do there.”
Americans are taking to the streets to protest the upcoming vote and save net neutrality.
— IndivisibleChi_South (@IndivChi_South) December 7, 2017
A study done by The Washington Post shows that an overwhelming number of Americans are in favor of saving net neutrality. Specifically, Americans oppose giving ISPs the power to decide what you can and can’t do or see on the Internet. Members of the Electronic Frontier Foundation argue that protecting free Internet and net neutrality protects free speech.