Imagine this scenario. You return to your dorm from a particularly rough day of class. Your professor was late to your first lecture, which made you late to your next class. Unfortunately, since you were late you missed a quiz. Now you’re back in your triple trying to de-stress with some Netflix when you notice a pop-up. It tells you that you cannot access Netflix unless you buy the separate streaming package that includes Netflix and other websites. This is how horrific the Internet could look without net neutrality. Thanks to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s insidious decision to repeal net neutrality, we are one step closer to this dystopian future.
In December, former Verizon employee Ajit Pai and the two other Republican members of the Federal Election Commission voted to repeal the same legislation their agency had first drafted in 2010—net neutrality. With net neutrality in place, Internet service providers (ISPs) like Verizon were not allowed to block or favor any website, Internet service, or app. These protections were extremely beneficial for tech startups because it allowed them to compete on the same playing field as multinational companies. The repeal of net neutrality should worry students considering working for startups in the tech sector due to the ramifications it could have on their company’s ability to compete.
It should also worry students working for larger tech companies, because even tech colossals like Apple and Google are not safe from Internet service providers’ anti-competitive nature. AT&T once blocked Apple’s Facetime, and Verizon once blocked Google’s early digital credit card: Google Wallet. While Apple and Google weren’t significantly harmed by these anti-consumer decisions, a start-up such as one created at UC San Diego’s very own startup incubator, the Basement, could be. Without net neutrality, ISPs could wreck startups from the beginning, just by blocking their users from accessing startup services.
Although UC San Diego exports countless engineers into the tech industry, the administration has been unusually silent on the issue of net neutrality, possibly because they could potentially benefit from its repeal. Since UC San Diego operates its own Internet, it could choose to block and slow down access to websites and apps that it deems unsatisfactory. This hypothetical scenario is not far-fetched, either, since the university once defunded all student media to censor certain speech that they deemed unsatisfactory. The university could even profit from the repeal of net neutrality if they decided to charge students for access to services that devour data, like Snapchat, or popular online gaming services such as Xbox Live, Playstation Network, or Steam.
On a more positive note, the FCC has yet to publish the net neutrality repeal in the Federal Register, meaning the digital apocalypse is not yet upon us. In the meantime, this is what you can do to help save net neutrality or punish those who are responsible for its repeal.
If you have AT&T or Verizon, switch your Internet service provider. As a Verizon or AT&T customer, you are funding the repeal of net neutrality. From late 2010 to the end of 2017, Verizon & AT&T collectively spent approximately $200 million lobbying against a plethora of issues, including increased internet oversight and net neutrality. The telecommunication giants’ war on net neutrality continued outside of lobbying. AT&T and Verizon both tried to stop net neutrality from becoming law by suing the FCC in the United States federal courts. Their staunch opposition to net neutrality is a huge part of the reason why net neutrality is on its deathbed today. . It is imperative that they suffer consequences for their anti-consumer actions, and the best way to send a message is through a boycott.
If AT&T or Verizon is your cell phone provider, then switch to T-Mobile, Sprint, or Google Fi, which offer equal, if not better, service.
If AT&T, DIRECTV (owned by AT&T), or Verizon is your cable provider, then cut the cord and find a better streaming service.
We must stand up to these corporations like we stand up to the government. One battle for the Internet has been lost, but the war is far from over.
Tajairi Neuson is a contributing writer at The Triton. We welcome responses to opinion pieces. If you’d like to submit a response, or comment on a different issue affecting the UC community, please submit here.