The days of a free and open Internet are rapidly descending upon us. Monday, June 11th marks the final day of Net Neutrality. In December 2017, the FCC voted to repeal an Obama-era set of regulations placed on major ISPs like Verizon and Comcast.
In May of this year, the Senate voted 52-47 in favor of overturning the FCC’s decision. However, this was only a Congressional Review Act measure, which basically is a way to overturn newly passed legislature after 60 days of it passing.
The vote still needs to pass through the House. With a majority of the GOP in favor of repealing Net Neutrality, it’s not looking hopeful.
Lets Run Through a Few Basics First.
The Internet’s humble beginnings can be traced back to the late 60’s when the US Department of Defense began working on the ARPANET program in California.
The first messages were sent between Stanford University and UCLA as a way to demonstrate the ability to send messages through signals to computers, which were still relatively new (and MASSIVE) concepts. With this new concept, researchers found a way to send messages to a vast network of computers using a single line of communication.
This huge breakthrough paved the way to allow an untethered access to a world of information right at your fingertips. Of course, it still had a ways to go from its inception.
This concept was finally realized in the 1980’s at CERN in Switzerland when Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist, created the first hyperlink. People could now access a wealth of knowledge from any point on the network. The 90’s saw a massive growth with the newly coined World Wide Web. Out of it came everything from e-mail to Instant Messaging.
The Internet as we know it was born.
The Digital Wild West
In this early era of the Internet, it was a virtual free-for-all. It was expanding faster than most people could even come to terms with and was often exploited because of this.
Dark corners of the web started popping up, unregulated and hidden from the world. But soon, businesses started noticing that more and more people were accessing this untapped market. It became a digital gold rush with companies buying up as much virtual real estate as they could.
Of course like all things, this too had to come to head. The inevitable Dot-Com Crash in the late 90’s shifted the focus from a free-for-all to needing regulation.
The first regulations and restrictions put in place were built with safety and freedom in mind. Most of these regulations were enacted to help protect the users from a still unknown force that was rapidly taking over. Some were more restricting and even unconstitutional.
What is Net Neutrality and Why Should I Care
At its core, Net Neutrality is a concept that prevents internet service providers (like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, etc) from discriminating or throttling traffic. It allows a free and open Internet for all users and treats all traffic the same.
It was originally developed in 2003 by Columbia Law professor, Tim Wu (you can read his paper here where he came up with the idea). This was still during a time fresh from the bubble burst. People were understandably weary of these communication giants going unchecked. The current iteration of Net Neutrality arose in 2015 as a response to the majority of Americans moving to the Internet as their main means of communication and information.
Of course, some think it is unnecessary to enact these kinds of regulations. I mean, it’s not like these telecommunication giants would ever purposely throttle or discriminate users, right? That would never happen!
The truth of the matter is, without checks and balances, it’s not a matter of if, but when it will happen again. Not to go all doom and gloom on you all of a sudden, but that is a very real possibility.
So… What Now?
The regulations may be coming to an end, but the fight is not over yet. Now is the time to double down on your efforts and let your voice be heard. Call your State Representatives and hit them where it matters: the ballot. Let them know you will not vote for them if they choose to support the repeal.
Go out and vote in November! Action is what speaks the loudest. And while you’re at it, Join the Battle for the Net to make sure your voice is best utilized and spread as far as it can.
This fight is far from over.