In the initial uproar over the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) December 2017 decision to repeal net neutrality rules instated under President Obama's administration, there was quite a bit of media coverage announcing the obliteration of a fair and open internet. On Wednesday, little noise was made about the United States Senate issuing a new lifeline to the Obama-era mandates in approval of the Congressional Review Act (CRA).
The CRA is a resolution which would enable Congress to review, as well as reject, decisions made by agencies of the federal government — including the FCC. Thanks to the American public's overwhelming support of the bill over the past 6 months, all 49 Democratic senators, and 3 Republican senators advanced the bill and it will now be brought to the House of Representatives. The chamber of the House of Representatives is currently majority Republican and many of the House Reps. are leaning in support of net neutrality's destruction.
Here's why we should all care:
The net neutrality rules were set in place in 2015 to prevent broadband providers such as Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T, from blocking subscribers' access to various websites and prohibited them from jacking up prices to receive content or high-quality internet service. Net neutrality also enabled the federal government to regulate the delivery of high-speed internet as if it were a basic essential service to households and businesses (a public utility) similar to water, electric, and telephone services.
Without net neutrality in place to protect our access to a basic service, we will all be subject to increased costs for "premium" internet connection packages akin to the compartmentalization and graded fees for TV channels in the early age of cable television. Many folks have equated the loss of net neutrality to the loss of fair and open social media (seemingly inconsequential, right?) but the implications of losing net neutrality reach far beyond the 'gram.
Afrotech, a dope extension of Blavity's media family, recently covered smartphones and how they are closing the financial gap faced by minorities compared to their white peers. The Afrotech article, which references research published in The Global eLearning Journal, describes the decades of disparity between white and minority communities regarding who does and does not have access to computers (desktop or laptop) to access the internet as a resource. Statistics have shown that white families are more likely to own a desktop computer, as well as have a wireless internet connection in their home than black and Hispanic families. However, this gap between who can and cannot afford internet access — and the wealth opportunities it offers — has been closing thanks to the advent of smartphones, which often offer internet connection as a part of their cellular plans.
As reported by Afrotech, over ten percent of black and Hispanic Americans have disclosed that they rely on their phone's internet connection to receive, or augment, their education, research medical symptoms and receive proper care, and to apply for jobs. For most of us, equal and open access to the internet is a lifeline and, if the protection of net neutrality is lost, the racial financial gap in the United States will inevitably widen. If broadband providers are allowed to capitalize on the utility of the internet, those of us with smaller budgets will be forced to select the slower, more affordable, internet connections, the basic internet packages that limit the scope of our access to information, as well as select an internet provider from an even further limited range of options.
The FCC's decision to repeal net neutrality will take effect on June 11, giving us all a very small window to push the House and save the internet as we know it. The voice of the American public was heard by the U.S. Senate (democracy ain't dead, y'all!) so, to get through to the House of Representatives, we will need to make some noise.
At this point you may be wondering: Dee, how in the hell can I make that noise!? And I'm glad you asked, I gotchu.
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Sound off, y'all!