By Jorel Lonesome
Along with politicians, activists and tech companies, many Bronx residents oppose the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) ruling on December 14, 2017 to discard net neutrality, which demands that ISPs treat all web traffic the same. Without net neutrality, internet service providers (ISP) such as BT Broadband or Comcast could influence what we see online and how quickly we can access it.
Bronx residents feel that ending net neutrality further disadvantages them economically. “Net neutrality has an important place in this economy,” said Carlos Diaz, Jr., 33, Bronx resident and part-time Teaching Assistant at Tiegerman School for Language in Woodside Queens. “Shopping, banking, and online trading on the internet will charge extra fees. It will just be too costly,” he added.
Without net neutrality, “There will be a domino effect. Small businesses on the internet will go out of business and people will lose jobs,” agreed Jamila Magoro, 30, Bronx resident and Tax Preparer at Liberty Tax Service on East Fordham Road in the Bronx.
Businesses, she added, “can’t get any traffic on their websites without paying ISP fees to get traffic from people who visit their sites. Many customers that buy products online will cancel their services because they can no longer afford to pay for additional fees to access certain sites.”
Until net neutrality was rescinded, data from big and small companies alike traveled on the same frequency at the same speed, thus the ISPs could not favor one company over another. Under net neutrality laws, larger companies can’t overtake their competitors. Even to watch videos on YouTube, browse Facebook, or read the news, an ISP is required.
Without net neutrality, companies will have to pay ISPs more money, favoring bigger companies that can afford to pay for better service. This could also lead to higher prices for customers. ISPs would charge customers premium prices to watch videos online or listen to music at times when websites are busy.
However, ISPs argue that if there was less regulation and they were able to charge a premium for faster service, they could reinvest the money in a better infrastructure that could include improved access for people in remote and rural areas.
According to Harper Neidig in an April 3 article, in TheHill.com, “most Republicans want to replace the net neutrality rules with legislation…” which they hold, “…will end the regulatory uncertainty that the telecom industry faces with the prospect that the rules will change every time the White House switches parties.”
Attorneys general across 20 different states are suing the FCC for axing net neutrality rules the Obama administration enacted in 2015. States such as Washington began to take initiative to counter congressional action by signing their own net neutrality bill, followed by legislatures in New York, Maryland, Montana and California. Courts are now opening more avenues for companies to file lawsuits against the FCC’s net neutrality changes. Kickstarter, Etsy and Foursquare were among some of the companies taking legal action against congress. They contend that net neutrality creates a level playing field which spurs innovation by giving small startups a fighting chance to grow and even surpass their big rivals.
As the net neutrality debate continues, ISPs wait for the FCC’s repeal of internet regulations to take effect. Major broadband providers such as AT&T and Comcast agree with the FCC’s move toward giving gatekeepers more power over the people. They believe open markets on the web and breakthroughs of online products are hindered by too much internet regulation.
Aside from the debates regarding the fate of net neutrality, Bronx residents also disapprove of the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality. People also feel axing net neutrality regulations is unlawful and won’t allow the autonomy for internet users to search information they want to see.
Bronx resident and real estate business owner Sharai Pérez, 40, said, “It should be illegal. It’s totally unconstitutional. There shouldn’t be any type of rule on the internet that companies and government powers can control. Net neutrality represents freedom unless the content is harmful or inappropriate.”