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By the Brooks: Net Neutrality is Gone, What Next?

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“By the Brooks” is a column written to answer your questions twice a month. If you would like a question answered, or are just generally wondering about Livermore High School, email me at [email protected]

And so it’s happened. Despite protests, pleas, and anger, Net Neutrality has been repealed. So then, what’s next? What does this removal of assured freedom assurance and discrimination prevention mean for us as people, and what does this mean for our school?

If you read my previous article then you know just how important net neutrality is, but for those of you who are still unclear, here’s a brief summary: Almost everything you do, say, or even research on the internet is mostly indiscriminate and allows the freedom of speech, depending on the website. However, in all cases, access to these websites is unrestricted. Net Neutrality assures that all media, websites, organizations, written documents, comments, and videos on the internet are unrestricted and accessible to all those who use the internet. The speed of your internet is also protected by Net Neutrality. Internet companies are not allowed to affect the speed or create two separate lanes of internet speed, one of them being faster and offered as a more expensive alternative. But now that Net Neutrality is gone, ISPs can affect your internet speed and offer a faster option if they so desired.

On December 14, 2017, the Federal Communications Commision decided to repeal Net Neutrality, in an effort to create a free, open market for the internet. This decision has been criticised by many. Some put the blame of the decision as an act of greed by the chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, who used to be a lawyer for Verizon, and has been accused of bribery. Many point out the fact that, though the FCC claims the removal of Net Neutrality will create a free market, the internet in itself is already a free market.

What the FCC truly intended to do, was allow internet companies, such as Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T, free range over what they can do to the customer’s internet access. The repeal allows them to restrict, silence, and put attention on whatever they please.

Basically, the internet was already free, but by removing the law that protects that freedom, it could become one of the most heavily restricted outlets in the U.S.

So, what does that mean for all of us? Specifically, what does that mean for the students of LHS, and furthermore, the education system altogether? I contacted Geoff Warner, the Chief Technology officer for the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District, our school’s district, and asked him what might happen now that Net Neutrality is gone. He replied with this:

“Now that net neutrality has been overturned, the internet is no longer considered a public utility. Additionally, there is no longer a legal basis to prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from prioritizing or blocking content. Will the net neutrality repeal lay the groundwork for more internet innovation, galvanizing technology startups, as argued by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai? Or will ISPs such as Comcast and Verizon use these new freedoms to create tiered delivery systems, creating fast tracks for higher prices or slow lanes for sites deemed low priorities? Opinions vary depending on who you ask.  I guess we will all find out in the near future if this impacts the price K12 schools and others pay for internet access packages.”

In short, the internet can no longer be freely accessed as a public utility, like it had been when the Obama Administration enacted the Net Neutrality laws in 2015. Many have no doubt that internet companies will use the lack of Net Neutrality to take advantage of several public utilities that rely on the internet to function, including the school system.

It would be very easy for companies such as Comcast, At&T, and Verizon to begin charging schools an exceptionally higher amount for useable internet access within the schools and to prevent their personal websites from being blocked. If such actions were taken, budget cuts would have to be enacted, as things like the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress require internet access in order to be taken. A necessity such as this could cause huge problems for the school system, the district, and the school itself.

As I stated in my previous article, the internet needs Net Neutrality. But now that it’s gone, steps must be taken in order to bring it back. Democratic senators are forcing a vote on repealing the FCC’s decision, and using the event to cause one of two outcomes. The first is that the decision is rectified by the vote, and the FCC is shot down. The second outcome, is that the decision will not be repealed, and Democrats will use that outcome to paint republican senators who voted to keep Net Neutrality repealed in a negative light.

This could lead to Democrats having a better chance of holding a majority of the house in the coming votes in the fall. Either way, it is clear that some people in power are doing everything they can to bring Net Neutrality back.

In light of all this one question must be answered; if the FCC’s decision is not repealed, what will happen to the access of the internet given to the common U.S. citizen and our school systems? The answer, only time will tell. But we can’t just sit back and wait for someone else to act.  

Please, share your disagreement of this decision, to your friends, your family, and anyone who cares to listen. Only together, can we bring this protection of freedom back.

Header credit: pixabay.com

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