The End of a Free and Open Internet

On December 14, A Republican-led Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal Obama-era net neutrality protections, or some say, the end of a free and open Internet

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet Service Providers should treat all internet traffic equally. The other side of the debate thinks ISPs (Internet Service Providers) should be able to selectively pick and choose the traffic they want to allow, and the speeds at which they can be sent.

If you still don’t know what that means, I’m here to help.

As I sought the best way to describe Net Neutrality, I found the best comparison was from Reddit user Pausbrak, who said you should think of it like a package delivery service. Under net neutrality, all packages are treated the same. You pay based on the weight of the package, and they are all delivered on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Without net neutrality, it’s like adding a premium subscription service. If you pay more, your packages will be given priority and sent first. The packages that didn’t pay extra will be bumped off the truck if necessary, potentially delaying it.

It doesn’t sound so bad at first, but there’s a huge difference between packages and internet connections. With a package, sending it over ground is cheaper and slower, which is why overnight shipping exists. With the internet, all messages come over the same place, so the only way to have a difference is for the ISPs to suppress any traffic that doesn’t pay for the extra speed. Many people don’t like the idea of ISPs intentionally slowing down a website just because they didn’t pay a fee.

Until recently, that speed was supposed to be guaranteed to be even across the entire internet. However, if suppressing or even outright blocking certain websites comes in, the internet becomes more like cable. It could lead to people having to subscribe to different “channels” in order to get access to various parts the internet. For example, you might have to pay a extra price to just have a faster connection while using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The idea makes a lot of people angry because it’s seen as an charge in order to just make more money for internet providers.

Many students in State High are concerned about the latest polices the FCC have written into law, including Senior Scott Morelli who says that “it is the end of free and open internet.”

The repeal of net neutrality rules will not happen overnight, as litigation to challenge the decision is likely. But still, The future of a free and open internet is as murkier than it ever has before.