California dreamin’ of net neutrality nationwide

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State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, addresses the state Senate, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. The Assembly approved Wiener’s net neutrality bill seeking to revive regulations repealed last year by the Federal Communications Commission that prevented internet companies from exercising more control over what people watch and see on the internet. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

On June 11, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed net neutrality regulations, enacted in 2015 during Barack Obama’s second presidential term, despite a Senate majority voting to counteract the measure.

But on Aug. 31, 2018, a mere few months later, California legislators passed SB 822, a bill which, if signed by governor Jerry Brown by the end of September, could create a domino effect for net neutrality’s reinstatement nationwide. Prominent internet users (i.e. a significant proportion of citizens in modern times) should rejoice in this potential reawakening.

Essentially, net neutrality invokes the principle of online equality. Internet service providers (ISPs) would permit users to access all online content and applications unencumbered. California’s bill (and others of its ilk) would prohibit such shady practices as “blocking or slowing down certain websites or ‘classes of applications,’ like video,” “‘paid prioritization,’ … where some websites would pay more for faster access,” and “‘zero-rating,’ when companies exempt certain traffic from counting against a customer’s data usage.” Internet usage under the FCC’s net neutrality repeal is comparable to riding a subway that speeds through several tunnels, only for a massive boulder to obstruct the entrance to the tunnel leading to your exit terminal, forcing you to break down said boulder with a pickaxe if you wish to travel any further. Although filing complaints (a practice that’s occasionally, but not always, justifiable) has become a favorite pastime among UConn students lately, this university’s inconsistent yet fair internet quality reigns supreme over its less-appealing alternatives.

With a paltry five-member voting committee, the FCC inadequately represents American internet users (i.e. roughly 289.9 million citizens, or 89 percent of the U.S. population). By comparison, the United States Congress has 535 voting members (100 senators and 435 representatives) to represent the country’s population of approximately 325.7 million (as of 2017). Because of its disproportionately low membership, the FCC’s voting committee may feel less indebted to its base and thus abuse its power. As implied previously, ISPs also have financial incentive to advocate for the overturn of net neutrality regulations.

Last June, incumbent FCC chairman Ajit Pai, a nefarious man who bears a striking physical and spiritual resemblance to the main antagonist of a direct-to-DVD film sequel, falsely claimed that “‘light-touch’ regulation would lead to more innovation, competition and cheaper prices for consumers.” In reality, the net neutrality revocation of limits accessibility and expansion and raises expenses for online users. To put these negative consequences into perspective for my fellow UConn peers, imagine that you’re returning to your dorm after a rambunctious night on the town, and at 11:58 pm you’re frantically logging on to HuskyCT to submit that assignment with an 11:59 pm deadline, only for your internet signal to drop even more rapidly than usual and cause you to miss your deadline. Considering that you’re a college student and thus likely on the brink of bankruptcy, surely you wouldn’t want to (and shouldn’t have to) pay any additional fees to ensure adequate online service. Also, the creepy “coincidence” of searching for a product on Amazon Prime and then opening up YouTube and finding an ad for said product manipulates online users into visiting certain websites more frequently and is the electronic equivalent of eavesdropping.

Undoubtedly, the recent net neutrality repeal benefits influential corporations and burdens the average online consumer. But if we continue to contact our local representatives and deliver an outcry of support for net neutrality regulations, then more states may follow in California’s footsteps in overruling the FCC’s misguided decision and maintaining a free and open internet.


Michael Katz is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at michael.i.katz@uconn.edu.

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