RUSA passes resolution opposing rollback of net neutrality
On Thursday, the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) passed a resolution opposing the anticipated decision to repeal Obama-era user protections covered under net neutrality by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Last month, Ajit Pai, the chairman of the FCC, announced a proposal to eliminate net neutrality rules created under the Obama administration. According to the RUSA resolution, the rules relied on Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 to regulate broadband Internet service as a public utility. The FCC is scheduled to vote on net neutrality on Dec. 14.
The RUSA resolution, entitled “Restoring Internet Freedom,” defines net neutrality as “the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should treat all Internet data the same.”
The FCC released a draft of the “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposal on Nov. 22, and is currently allowing public comments preceding the vote this Thursday. The proposal is expected to pass three-to-two along party lines, according to The New York Times.
Presented to the assembly by Suzanne Link, chairwoman of the Legislative Affairs Committee and Rutgers Business School junior, along with several members of the Legislative Affairs Committee, the RUSA resolution formally opposes, “Restoring Internet Freedom,” and was passed by unanimous consent.
“Currently ... all internet service providers are categorized under Title II, which are common carriers,” Jeffrey Zhang, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore said during the presentation.
Zhang compared this to being part of someone's utility bill, like water. He said the FCC currently regulates the internet to prohibit pricing based on service, but if this is deregulated, it will directly harm all students.
Jaidev Phadke, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, who prefaced his segment of the presentation by noting the irony of the order’s title, said that the anticipated vote to repeal net neutrality protections will explicitly affect students at Rutgers.
Phadke also referenced a Targum article published last month which featured an interview with Steven Miller, a professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies. Miller articulated that repealing net neutrality would disproportionately affect the ability of specific populations of students, such as commuter students, to access high speed internet.
The anticipated vote to roll back the protections, which Pai has criticized as examples of government overreach, will affect students at Rutgers and across the nation, Phadke said.
If the FCC does vote to deregulate net neutrality, RUSA anticipates working with the University, such as the Office of Information Technology (OIT), to try to mitigate any negative effects.
“We’re going to have to deal with repercussions for our students,” he said.
Alexandra Anderson, another presenting committee member and a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore, emphasized that RUSA’s resolution also allows members to publicly advocate against FCC’s “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposal.
The resolution included a statement for RUSA members to submit to the FCC on behalf of the assembly. The statement opposes the FCC’s plan to end net neutrality, she said.
During the Q&A period following the presentation, Link expressed interest in developing an information campaign to educate students on the issue, including ways to participate in advocacy efforts.
According to The Huffington Post, nearly 60 U.S. mayors and local leaders signed a public letter in support of net neutrality. The article also reported protests at hundreds of Verizon stores and congressional offices.
Twenty-eight senators have also called for the FCC to delay its vote to repeal net neutrality, according to The Hill.
“One of the major things that distinguishes this (anticipated) ruling from other pieces of legislation that we’ve advocated for before is that these are (five) people in a boardroom at the FCC who are making this decision,” Anderson said. “But what we can do is add our voices to those who are calling for action.”
The assembly also passed a bill approving the Spring 2018 Allocations, which were prepared by the Allocations board. The bill allots $525,000 from University student fees to 314 organizations of the Rutgers University—New Brunswick campuses.
Forty-eight members voted in favor of the legislation, two voted against it, three abstained and one voted “present.”
The legislation was authored by Shannon Chang, RUSA treasurer and Rutgers Business School senior, along with Dana Cai, allocations chairperson and a Rutgers Business School senior, and presented by several other members of the RUSA Allocations Board.
The presentation to the assembly included a brief overview of the allocations process, including how student organizations applied for funding and the criteria upon which the Allocations Board decided how much money to allocate to each organization.
“We only fund a maximum of two requests per group,” said Christine Botvinnik, vice chairperson of the Allocations Board and a Rutgers Business School junior.
The request has to be synonymous with the mission statement of the organization in order to receive student fee money. It is also required to have an educational component.
The budget was reviewed three times, including a final review by the Allocations Board chairperson.
Nick Pellita, the Allocations Board secretary and a School of Arts and Sciences junior, stressed that although organizations who propose larger events will receive higher amounts of money, funding to organizations is content-neutral.
Student organizations can now view the finalized budget on the RUSA Allocations Board website.
“We do not judge at all the content of the actual events themselves. So the only thing that’s affecting funding in any of these cases is the actual logistical details of the events that the clubs propose,” he said.