The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced sweeping plans to repeal net neutrality laws.
Upon hearing the news on Nov. 21 and discerning what it means for them, many Americans responded with a resounding ... huh?
Net neutrality may come across as a tricky, complex issue that's easy to tune out, especially if you don't necessarily consider yourself an internet person. But if you go online — which nearly 9 in 10 Americans reportedly do (and I bet you're one of them if you're reading this article) — the sweeping change under Donald Trump's administration will likely affect your internet use.
Let's parse through this together.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai defended the move on Twitter, calling the current laws "heavy-handed regulations."
Claiming that the new, lax rules can "save the open internet" through free market principals, Pai argued that his proposal will stop the federal government from "micromanaging" internet service providers (ISPs).
There's another side to the story though.
Iconic. GIF from Gap.
In her typical all-caps, emoji-filled fashion, Cher laid out why she thinks repealing net neutrality rules will be so harmful to everyday Americans.
Phrased more subtly, Cher's tweet basically says:
"Net neutrality means Trump can change the internet. It will include less Americans, not more. Now Comcast, AT&T, Google will show you only what they want you to see. Slower and more expensive at their whim. See less, charged more."
Cher has built a reputation on Twitter for her bombastic, often off-the-wall tweets. Do her thoughts on net neutrality actually add up?
Sadly, one could certainly argue her take on net neutrality in fewer than 280 characters is a fairer assessment than the actual FCC chairman's.
Cher is totally right to say the repeal will make the internet accessible to "less Americans, not more."
Net neutrality is, in essence, another way of saying "equal access to the internet." It regulates the flow of internet data, so anything you're seeing or downloading online is delivered to your computer or smart phone at equal speeds, regardless of your internet provider or what website you're on. Net neutrality basically makes the internet a public utility, like electricity or water.
In repealing net neutrality, the FCC is giving significantly more power to telecom giants like AT&T and Verizon, who may be able to stop or slow internet access to certain websites of their choosing — like Amazon, Facebook, or Netflix — based on competing interests.
Supporters of the repeal, like Pai and the Trump administration, have tried to make the issue partisan by tying net neutrality to the Obama administration and the idea of big government.
But in effect, repealing net neutrality laws will likely make the internet less accessible to more people by hiking prices for users to see and download certain content. The move will largely let corporations decide who gets access to entertainment and information based on who's willing to sign up (and pay up) for their services.
To see this already in action, one must only look to Spain and Portugal, where the lack of net neutrality laws mean certain websites and services are only accessible if purchased in bundled packages, similar to cable TV in the U.S. While our own situation might not end up being as extreme, there have already been a plethora of net neutrality violations, signaling perhaps that U.S. ISPs aren't on its customers' side.