December 19, 2017
The principle that Internet service providers such as AT&T, Comcast, and Charter Spectrum should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites is a basic right that you expect when you go onto the internet. This concept is referred to as colloquially as net neutrality.
On December 14, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission, led by Ajit Pai, voted to dismantle these regulations despite opposition from Congress, the American people, technical experts and advocacy organizations.
So, what does this mean for internet users in the US? Service providers will now be able to charge for higher quality services or even charge extra for access to certain content. In addition to higher prices, they will even be allowed to block certain material that poses a direct threat to their business or that they wish to prohibit their customers from seeing.
This new decision will disproportionately affect the working class, who struggle even now to pay for their internet services. The president and CEO of GLAAD, Sarah Kate Ellis warned that the stripping of these regulations would result in the silencing of already marginalized communities.
Organizations like Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ+ community are overwhelmingly silenced already online by sites like YouTube and Twitter. This now opens the door for complete dismissal of any content posted by these groups and organizations or people that criticize big telecommunication companies or their partner corporations. And while the ramifications of this vote will not be effective immediately, there will be long term consequences. Broadband providers will now have the legal right to start censoring information, bringing an end to the open internet as we know it.
In an article by CBS, Mignon Clyburn, who voted against the measure said “We will have a Cheshire cat version of net neutrality, We will be in a world where the regulatory substance fades to black and all that is left is a broadband providers toothy grin.”