November 21, 2018 | ° F

EDITORIAL: Equal access to internet is essential


Net neutrality rules set to be lifted any day now


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In December, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted in favor of curtailing the net neutrality rules set forth by 2015’s Open Internet Order. Those regulations worked to restrict Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Verizon, Comcast and a few others from blocking certain content or slowing down services — also known as throttling — to those who are not able to pay as much as others. When President Donald J. Trump entered office, he appointed Ajit Pai, who is adamantly against net neutrality, as head of the FCC. Any day now, the former President Barack Obama-era net neutrality rules preventing a tiered system of internet access will be lifted. Puzzlingly, though, the internet’s users are considerably more silent on the issue today than they were back in December. 

To a certain extent, there are privileges that come with having more money that do not necessarily amount to injustice. This is not the case when it comes to the use of internet. It is not far-fetched to state that “fast lanes” and better access that will be granted to customers who pay more seem to be a perpetuation of education inequity. Today in New Jersey, we see people with less money literally getting a lower quality education, as property taxes play a huge part in the amount of funding that goes toward a given area’s public school district. And now without net neutrality, we may see those who have less money end up having even less access to quality education. So it is possible that in 2018, we are moving swiftly away from an era of net equality into an era of net inequality, where the rich get smarter and the poor fall farther behind. 

It is also not far-fetched to imagine Rutgers students being negatively affected by a lack of net neutrality. The University, as all others do, relies heavily on reliable internet access. If it ends up costing more for Rutgers to attain quality internet services, then students will presumably foot the bill. Commuter students will have it even worse, as they will not be spending nearly as much time on Rutgers’ campus, and so will have to utilize the internet service they provide for themselves — which, depending on their income, could be a huge problem. 

According to Pai’s report on the matter from March 2015, his aim is to restore internet freedom. This is interesting, because it seems to mostly be restoring the freedom of the internet service providers, and not the average person — as the average person will clearly lose the level of freedom to internet access they would have had beginning in 2015. The internet is a tool for information, and there are nations whose governments control and filter what they see. Considering the new sort of laissez-faire approach to the internet here in the United States, it seems big businesses are now able to filter what we view to what suits their preferences and monetary advantages. That doesn’t necessarily sound like the land of the free. 

Net neutrality and all of its details and nuances are not exactly easy to understand, but what is obvious is that large corporate ISPs will be the ones significantly benefiting from this policy change. As for consumers and small businesses, the benefits remain unclear, though Pai would have us believe they are plentiful. The internet is potentially one of the highest commodity goods in today’s world. It has the potential to give people opportunities to do things they never have, learn about anything they can imagine and connect with people across the world for free. To curtail equal access to those opportunities is a great injustice to society and sets us back on our path of progress. 

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The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 150th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.


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