The Weakening Web

Bryce Parr

 

Big changes are coming to the ways we watch, listen and game over the internet, changes that could effect many students at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. The possible abolishment of net neutrality may give internet companies like Netflix or Hulu a stronger network presence over smaller streamers such as Sling TV or YouTube TV.

 

On May 18, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), led by Chairman Ajit Pai, voted 2 to 1 on restoring the internet to a less restricted state and abolishing the Title II classification of 2015. The vote could effectively destroy net neutrality- the idea that internet service providers should not control any legal web traffic sent over their networks.

 

Repealing the Title II classification may allow internet service providers (ISP) to enact paid prioritization. Companies and consumers could be forced to pay a premium to receive network speeds that are currently available to all customers under Title II.

 

According to the FCC’s comment on the initiative, “restoring the market-based policies [is] necessary to preserve the future of Internet Freedom.” By removing regulations, they hope to “spur broadband deployment throughout the country, bringing better, faster internet service to more Americans and boosting competition.”

 

Some UWStout students disagree, including President of Information Security Professionals (ISP), Alex Anton, who says, “Multiple studies show [that] Americans, on average, pay more money and get slower speeds than the rest of the modern world. These large cable companies often already have their own artificial monopoly and want to make our internet like cable TV—paying to view certain parts of the internet. Not only will this benefit the player with the most money and harm small business, but this also takes away what makes the internet and the modern world so great: the access to information.”

 

Some consumers believe that internet startups are particularly at risk if providers start paid prioritization programs. “[Internet startups] don’t have a chance unless there are massive changes to regulations,” said Ben Schugel a junior studying applied math and computer science. “I think that the breakup of The Bell System is a great example of what should happen. ISPs are getting too large, and the only way to give these small companies a chance in this market is to explore anti-trust options.”

 

Internet gaming will also see lasting effects. ISP’s can slow internet service, also known as bandwidth throttling, for any consumers that consistently use a large amount of bandwidth- unless they purchase a package (similar to cable packages) that offers unthrottled use of streaming services like Netflix or Hulu, social media sites such as Instagram or Twitter and even online gaming platforms like Xbox Live or Steam.

 

Discussion is still in preliminary stages, but the vote has already concluded that regulation will be rolled back. In Anton’s words, “The next few steps moving forward will be crucial. Now more than ever, it is important to speak up and make sure your voice is heard.”