Clear History:

Privacy and net neutrality in the U.S.

The United States Constitution gave us the right to privacy within the fourth amendment, stating, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” In other words, unless there is probable cause there is no need for American citizens to have their property searched. Throughout the past few months, our nation has been prompting questions as to what exactly constitutes as “property.”

When the internet is a global system it is difficult on where we would draw the line of personal ownership; we are responsible for our accounts and searches online, but they can be monitored and accessed at any time by companies in charge of the whole system, or even accessed by hackers. “Private” hardly means anything anymore. But we like the comfort of believing we have privacy, so we will continue fighting for a title of protection.

On the topic of something that needs to remain protected, we have net neutrality. Net neutrality is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of the internet and this 21st century culture we have grown so accustomed to; by allowing internet users throughout the free world to communicate, use free speech, and have safe spaces online, net neutrality is something that all internet using citizens hold sacred. Without net neutrality, we lose control of our normal web activities; internet service providers (ISPs), such as Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T, can charge extra for faster internet speeds, video calls, block websites, and generally make things work in their own favor rather than for consumers.

The situation is a win-lose situation. We as consumers require the internet to work and meet our everyday needs. The ISPs want our money which the upper middle class and the wealthy will certainly pay for in order to carry on about their normal lives, but this situation leaves the lower class struggling to afford internet, making the internet a luxury expense.

The net neutrality rules declared in 2015 clearly state that ISPs are not allowed to deliberately play favorites by slowing down or speeding up the response times of certain apps and websites used by their consumers. As long as a bill is being paid by a consumer to use the internet on their personal devices, they are allowed as much access as they want within the realm of the internet.  But the recent May 18 ruling, influenced by FCC chairman Ajit Pai, allows ISPs more freedom to do as they please to their users. In simpler terms: big businesses would be fully in charge of the internet, limiting the web freedom of Americans.

The trade group, The Internet Association, representing Facebook, Amazon, and Google, made a comforting statement during a meeting with Pai: “the internet industry is uniform in its belief that net neutrality preserves the consumer experience, competition and innovation online. Existing net neutrality rules should be enforced and kept in-tact.” Affirming that they all support net neutrality due to the sense of , “happy customers; happy business.”

If the FCC manages to succeed in demolishing net neutrality, and the ISPs choose to change their methods and place harsher restrictions upon their customers, the internet as we know it will begin to change; perhaps slowly over time or perhaps drastically within a few months or less. It has been up to American citizens to fight back with their voices, protesting, writing letters, petitioning for the internet to remain a place for the free exchange of ideas.

As of August 11, the FCC has begrudgingly extended its comment period, allowing citizens and politicians alike a chance to support or oppose the decision to end net neutrality. Whether or not the FCC with honestly take these oppositions into true consideration will remain unknown until sometime after August 30; until then, it is up to American citizens to fight against this ruling and protect the internet as we know it.

Author: Olivia Dudley

Junior in college studying digital communications. Traveler, writer, amateur photographer, animal lover, hard worker.

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