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On December 14th, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) votes to repeal the current net neutrality rules. These rules are from the Obama-era and ensure internet service providers offer equal access to online services.
Net neutrality runs on the idea that internet service providers must treat all data on the internet the same. This means they will not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. If a country has adopted net neutrality principles, internet service providers are unable to block, slow down, or charge money for specific websites and online content.
Without these rules, internet service providers can offer "packages" and divide up the websites you use on a daily basis to charge more for their usage. A social media package could include sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram; a streaming package could include Netflix and YouTube. Both would cost you additional money beyond the current fees for the internet provided - and could be sped up or slowed down depending on your usage, location, and other criteria that the internet service providers use to ensure they make even more money.
In addition to this, internet service providers could begin offering preferential treatment to services they directly profit from and blocking those they don’t. They will charge the services additional money to use them as a service provider. For example, YouTube would be charged additional fees as they are streaming audio and visual content which takes up more data, costing the internet service provider more money. These costs will be given directly to the consumer—you—through membership and subscription fee increases. This means two additional costs will be streamlined to the consumer, limiting the access to the websites for persons who are marginalized and discriminated against on a day-to-day basis.
While this in and of itself is insufficient for consumers, it impacts the ability for free speech. The public arena for speech and conversation will be limited to those who can afford additional costs and quotas, leaving the already marginalized to be further silenced.
Many large public figures on social media websites will be able to maintain their following and revenues, but those with a substantially lower following will be out of business. This includes already marginalized people and will continue to stifle the voices of those that deserve to be heard because they discount the status quo.
The internet has given people a platform that they would not have had access to without the type of innovation and creativity that has been made possible. Internet service providers will essentially be able to dictate who has the right to be heard based on who has the most money. Movements such as the Arab Spring and Black Lives Matter will no longer have a space in the conversation because they will be shut out by internet service providers.
It is important for marginalized groups to be able to communicate, use their voices, and have a platform to share their experiences with others. The internet creates a sense of community for persons who do not feel included in the current reality of the world.
Without free and open internet, the marginalized will be silenced and no critique of the government, institutions, or the world around us will be heard. This is what the current US administration wants, but let's not allow this to happen. Find your Member of Congress and tell them to urge the FCC to uphold net neutrality.