Access Denied


Annie Liu

Zev Minsky ’20 said, “Revoking the Internet’s liberty would oppress many voices.”

It’s been nearly 30 years since the invention of the World Wide Web, and internet freedom has since become an important issue in our lives.

Net neutrality laws set in place by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have restricted internet service providers (ISP) from interfering with Internet data. These regulations prevent providers such as Xfinity, Time Warner Spectrum, and Verizon Fios from speeding up, slowing down, or blocking specific pages from being accessed. By moderating the free use of internet, ISPs cannot unfairly gain an advantage by interfering with how content of competing companies is displayed.

However, President Donald Trump’s newly appointed FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, plans to repeal the regulations set in place.

Pai rejected the Open Internet Order the FCC first proposed in 2015 when he was commissioner, but the regulation passed under majority vote. The FCC filed the order under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, which classified internet providers as a public telecommunication service.

Under Title II, ISPs are required to follow the regulations set for telephone utilities, such as those prohibiting paid prioritization. Internet service providers cannot financially arrange to prioritize specific companies’ or their own content by skipping past congested internet nodes.

However, Pai proposes to categorize the providers under Title I, which would classify them as internet services and loosen the regulations associated with net neutrality.

Marisha Toa ’20 agrees. “It’s business. Companies should have the opportunity to promote their own interests.”

“Freedom of speech is taken from many.”

Loosening net neutrality regulations would open the Internet to self-promotion and a market governed by the free market. The playing field may not be leveled, but many believe that allowing the market to take its own course would resolve many of the issues that may result from Pai’s proposal.

“The web is notable for its free and convenient access to information around the world,” said Zev Minsky ’20. “Revoking the Internet’s liberty would oppress many voices that need to be heard.”

Edison Situ, ’19, however, compares Pai’s new proposal to selling cars. “It’s unfair, much like how it would be unfair for a car dealer to sell a good car from a company that he or she would enjoy, and purposely selling terrible ones from other companies.”

The Internet Association has also spoken against Pai’s new proposal. Nearly fifty of the leading companies on the Internet, such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon, founded this organization in Washington D.C. to protect the interests of the Internet.

As an association focused primarily on cultivating the internet economy, equal treatment of internet traffic is necessary for internet stability. It is not within the best interest of the Internet and its users to allow internet service providers the authority to discriminate between content.

The changes proposed by Pai would wreck the system that is currently in place. Allowing companies to interfere with data access restricts innovation and creativity. Large monopolies are able to gain a greater hold over the Internet, ousting smaller companies and startups that may introduce new ideas to the field.

“The network itself will consequently turn into a closed internet rather than an open one. With net neutrality taken away, freedom of speech is taken from many people,” said Kate Lin ’18. “We cannot let that happen.”