“The Frontier Foundation speaks for the American people

“The Internet, like the steam engine, is a technological breakthrough that changed the world.” -Peter Singer (“Peter Singer Quotes.”) On December 14th, 2017, the FCC voted to repeal Net Neutrality, the principle that made any source of internet material financially equal in the matter of accessibility (Wight, Jonathan B.). If this repeal is found to be legally sound, the American public will be forced to change how they pay for their internet use, but is the issue really that simple? For the more financially successful, perhaps that is the end of it, but the “little man” may have more problems on their hands. The FCC’s decision to repeal Net Neutrality will have shattering effects on small businesses, free speech, and the personal privacy of the American public. Small internet-based businesses have become a backbone for younger generations and their economic contributions. These same businesses have become a hotbed for progress and development in industry. Francesca Michel and Erin Weidman, Bachelor of Urban Economics and Finance Major and consultant, respectively, defend the economic start-up, “up-and-coming websites…should not be hindered of the chance to succeed.” The internet has been a shelter for progress and small charitable foundations for years. With the repeal of Net Neutrality, anyone may find their charity of choice unable to support its online presence, shrinking its influence dramatically. Todd Wasserman, Marketing and Business editor at Mashable claims that there should be no issue, and “Data caps will be high enough that most customers won’t notice them…. that’s the same way it works with electricity, gas and water” (Wasserman, Todd). While some agree with Wasserman, that the internet is simply another utility, this statement seems to have been made while unaware of the internet needs of those in such small businesses and charitable foundations. These are often run by just a few individuals working with a massive platform, and therefore are less than comforted by such comments. Jenny Odegard of the Odegard Law Firm puts the true necessity of these organizations in simple terms, referring to them as, “the current wave in startup culture,” but small businesses that work for progressive industry practices are less likely to receive the funding necessary for their existence in the American marketplace. The repeal fundamentally threatens small businesses and charities, but what about personal usage? The internet has changed dramatically over the years, and with it, the public’s use of the internet has shifted to a stage for free speech. Corynne McSherry, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation speaks for the American people in this quote: “The Internet has become our public square, our megaphone.” It is clear that, as America has remained a petri dish for public opinion, the people require their forum with which to communicate opinions and witness other sides to each issue. An anonymous writer for the American Civil Liberties Union claims that “It is essential to the free, open internet that we love. Without equal access to the internet, we lose our rights to be heard and hear others.” With the repeal, free speech may lose its freedom, at least in the financial sense of the word. This is unquestionably problematic for the less-financially well-off, whose voices could be silenced under the more wealthy and publicly favored. In fact, Andrew Cullison, Director of the Janet Prindle Institute of Ethics at DePauw University had this to say about the potential risk to the very foundation of the United States, concerning net neutrality, “…getting rid of it might actually be a threat to our democracy.” Cullison goes on to explain that, if a leader in internet providing has a strong political opinion, with the repeal, they could use the internet as a platform to sway swing voters, slowing down information from sources they dislike, and speeding up access to whatever they approve. Take, for instance, Lowell McAdam, Verizon CEO as documented by Jessica Chasmar, Washington Times Culture and Politics writer, in having very strong opinions of the latest presidential election’s candidates, a doubt in authority reflected by Jonathan B. Wight, Professor of Economy at Robins School of Business of the University of Richmond, explaining that blind faith is nothing to go off of in business. No opinion can be spread without a platform, and in the modern world, that means the internet. If the United States is ready to turn against the foundation of democracy, the people’s choice, it has decided to reject its very nature. By now, one can understand how the repeal will affect Americans as a whole, but personal, more confined incidents are practically unavoidable. As anyone has heard from many a pro-repeal individual, such as Todd Wasserman, the US went so long without Net Neutrality, and what could possibly go wrong now? Laurel Demkovich, journalism student and attendee to a Net Neutrality debate between Barbara Cherry, Matt Pierce, and Julien Mailland, explains simply that,  “During that time, internet providers discriminated against certain content” (Demkovich, Laurel). The self-contradiction runs deeper, as presented by Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy, Gigi Sohn who states that the FCC promised, “no discrimination, no blocking, no “harmful” paid prioritization. (Which is interesting, since the Wheeler FCC has found that paid prioritization is inherently harmful)…. and there’s a real chance the FCC actually won’t be able to regulate ISPs at all.” This “paid prioritization” compromises privacy, as for a company to charge for different internet sources, they have to be shown on a bill. Any abuse victim searching for a way out, and any LGBTQ+ minor looking for an online community, will face a broken sense of privacy should an abuser or caretaker check their bill. This same concept presents itself for recovering addicts, many of whom will see their online support group ripped from them. While presently a public library is a safe haven in such a conundrum, they too are under fire from the repeal, as explained by Kaitlyn Tiffany, culture reporter at The Verge. This explains the surge of sites working to bring resources to these communities with the implementation of Net Neutrality. The repeal threatens all of this progress. This is not the first time this conversation has been had. Josh Silver, founder and director of Represent Us, weighed in on a major issue with decision-makers in the past. “The government official who could fix this is the former chief lobbyist for the companies who just won the court case against the FCC so that they can screw consumers and make more money.” Silver goes on to express the corruption of government officials with pasts in internet providing, which brings questions to the authenticity of the FCC’s most recent decision. This untrustworthy behavior and self-contradictory presentation by the FCC brings forth concern of its morality. The potential for corruption and privacy invasion is too much to ignore. The repeal of Net Neutrality is understood to be a complicated issue. Much of the American public is unaware of how it will personally affect them, and have therefore given no response to the action and legislation surrounding it. It is clear to see now, that the effects will have potentially disastrous consequences, particularly in the field of ethics, from nation- to home-level. Even institutions of knowledge, such as the everyday public library are threatened, and with them, so the community. From risking the foundation of America’s freedom, to chancing the safety of people in their own homes, the repeal will leave many a mark if it passes the very legislation it threatens.