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Why to care about the preservation of net neutrality

By Nikhilesh Chhetri
On December 13, 2017

Imagine you’re watching a dank meme or a cat video on YouTube after your tiring day serving tables. The cat’s been trying to grab that ball of wool; he looks cute, and you’re trying your best to forget about the rude customer who tipped you only a quarter. Now imagine the cat video buffering. Looks bad, doesn’t it? That is what might happen to you once the Federal Communications Commission approves the rollback of the net neutrality rules.

The net neutrality rules were officially passed in 2015 after millions of activists pressured the FCC to adopt rules that keep the internet free and open. In short, this rule forbids your internet service provider, ISP, be it AT&T or Comcast or Spectrum or Verizon, to slow down or block any particular website or service.

If they could do that, it would suck, believe me. Back in Nepal, where there isn’t anything such as net neutrality, ISPs often slow down services such as Netflix and Hulu because they take a lot of internet traffic. I’m pretty sure that the same would happen in USA unless you’re ready to pay extra bucks for a streaming service a la carte. This could be avoided if your streaming service decided to pay it for you, but that’s not guaranteed. Even if they decided to pay for the “internet fast-lane,” it would cost them a lot of money, which eventually means charging you extra for their subscriptions. That’s one reason to keep a close eye on the upcoming vote.

This could also affect a lot of small business owners who reach out and sell to their customers online. Since the internet provider has more control over the internet, they could data cap certain websites or even block them to “provide faster internet.” In order to lift the restrictions, the businesses would have to pay a certain fee, which small businesses would struggle to, giving them a significant disadvantage over the big dogs.

All my fellow gamers out there who don’t have spare money lying around, you’ll be disfavored by this as well. ISPs could charge you more for faster download speeds and lower latency, delay times. That basically means that you’d need to pay more to become a better gamer.

What bothers me the most about all this is the fact that this could destroy the idea of freedom that the internet was built on. Most of the popular websites, apps and internet services that we use now started from scratch. The developers were free to make their hard work available to everyone by just putting it on the internet, but now they might also have to pay to remove any restrictions on it. I’m pretty sure that most of the developers don’t have such money. As a computer science student, this really makes me reevaluate my choice of major.

One of the arguments I’ve heard against net neutrality is this: “Tech companies should pay for the internet infrastructures.” Well, internet doesn’t cost money, infrastructures do, and ISPs take money from us to improve the same infrastructures. Another classic point is the creation of “internet fast-lane,” but like we discussed above, this has some significant disadvantages.

If you’ve been persuaded enough, I ask you to contribute in trying and stopping the attack on net neutrality by signing a petition or calling your senator directly through savetheinternet.com. 

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