Unchecked Capitalism: The End of Net Neutrality

Seth Plush, Editor

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     On Thursday, December 14, a five-person board at the United States Federal Communications Commission voted to end net neutrality, once again displaying the cynicism within corporate America and its government.

     Net Neutrality, as it stood from 2015 onward, held that Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) must adhere to the language included in Title II the Communications Act of 1934, which prohibited them from treating Internet based data preferentially or unequally across different hosts. This essentially meant that ISP’s could not restrict the flow of data from one website to another, so, for example, Comcast could not intentionally make Internet speeds faster for Facebook, but slower for Netflix. In effect, Net Neutrality regulation prevented the internet from being transformed into a laissez-faire disaster, where ISPs could use threats of data throttling and website blocking to strong-arm consumers and website owners into paying exorbitant rates for internet access, especially in rural or low-income areas where there is only one viable ISP.

Internet “packages” from Portuguese ISP, MEO

     However, with these regulations largely removed, this worst-case scenario has the full potential to become a reality, as the now regulation-free ISPs have complete freedom and authority to move data in whatever way they see fit. In spite of this, throughout the build up and current roll-out of the repeal, providers have made every effort to convince the American Public that they will not practice throttling or blocking within the new system.

Comcast as well as others took to social media in the lead-up to the decision, “reassuring” the public of their intentions.

     In this case, however, the ISPs have provided little substantial reasoning as to why they would keep these promises. Simple common sense would dictate this; if the framework preventing a company from exploiting its customers for exponentially larger profits is removed, what reason would the company have for taking that course of action? Staunch free-market supporters would assert that any exploitative action would result in consumers leaving the exploitative company in search of a fairer one, in other words, the people keep the corporations in check with their wallets. However, this is not the case in this circumstance, where in many parts of America, especially in the more poor or rural areas, where single ISPs have virtual monopolies on the infrastructure needed to run the internet. In these areas, the consumers would be with a choice: be exploited by the ISP or simply not use internet, and in today’s society choosing the latter puts those people at a direct disadvantage.

     It is here where the underlying problem of the situation begins to show itself: in the present-day, resources that benefit the whole of society are kept almost exclusively by the corporate class and are used as a means to exclusively benefit themselves. In this capacity, internet (to an even greater extent after the destruction of net neutrality) is no different than that of bottled water or corporate agriculture, where a beneficial and sometimes life necessitating resource is simply treated as a commodity to be bought and sold, rather than a means to further the advancement of society and mankind as a whole.

     It is regulations like Net Neutrality that attempt to curb some of these actions, and help to guarantee easier access to a means of prosperity. When they are removed, the people are completely subject to the whim of the thoughtless profit-minded corporation, and it becomes not a matter of if, but of when, another means of prosperity will be blocked behind a pay-wall or restricted entirely.

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