Net Neutrality: Trump’s Plan and What it Means for Americans

Mariah Wise, Staff Writer

If you’ve been keeping up with our President’s movements, you would know that the Trump administration wishes to repeal net neutrality in the U.S. Unfortunately, most of the population is unaware of exactly what this means.

Starting with the basic information- what is net neutrality? Net neutrality is the idea that internet service providers (ISP’s) such as Spectrum, AT&T, etc. cannot charge differently for internet data used for a specific site, attachments, or users. This also means that providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down, and/or charge money for the use of a specific platform.

From 1996-2015, per the Clinton administration, the internet was not neutral. However, in 2015, under the Obama administration, the FCC voted to make the internet free and open for all users and entrepreneurs. Millions of Americans weighed in on the subject through petitions, comments, and general word of mouth, and overall, 76% of voting Americans support neutrality.

The issue we are facing today, merely a two and a half years later, is the Trump administration looking to repeal Obama’s mandates concerning net neutrality. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) chairman, Ajit Pai’s arguments for repealing the current standards focus on past experiences and assumptions; if the internet is no longer neutral, Pai says, it will create more competition—and somehow, this answered both parts of his argument. Creating competition will drive entrepreneurship as it did with large platforms such as Facebook and Netflix, and also keep already established internet providers from doing what everyone is afraid of: slowing down the internet based off of what platform is being used.

Unfortunately for the FCC, there are some issues with Pai’s argument. Also using past experience, the first argument for defenders of net neutrality will point out that we have already seen conglomerate ISP’s use non-net neutrality to their advantage—AT&T is the best example: from 2007-2009 they stopped their iPhone users from using any other video chatting service aside from Facetime, which could only be used if they were subscribed to a specific data plan. A second example to counter Pai’s argument is in relation to the conglomerates and competition. Currently, some of these ISP’s own other platforms such as Hulu, Netflix, HBOGo, and DirecTVNow. Creating more competition among these companies could result in some customers only being able to use one streaming service; an example of this is if AT&T owns DirecTVNow, and Verizon owns Hulu. AT&T could then slow down the speed of their internet when using Hulu, and force their users into using DirecTVNow.

The official decision on Pai’s proposal will be sometime this week; however, it is looking grim for supporters of net neutrality, as the FCC is mainly led by Republicans. To learn more about net neutrality and the decision made by the FCC once it happens, please visit reputable news sources.