Net Neutrality Repeal: Turning Back ProgressThe internet has become apart of our everyday life, from our banking to the way we socialize. It has allowed humans to interact and experience other cultures from the comfort of our own homes. The internet, as we know, has arguably become a necessity to the lives of humans but that access will slowly be taken away. With the FCC’s vote to overrule Net Neutrality, the way we use and interact with the internet may forever be changed. The repeal of net neutrality has created serious consequences such as the increase in the digital divide, less competition, and not viewing the internet as a public utility. People have taken action through their social media with hashtags and slacktivism to help campaign for a reversal of the decision. Net neutrality was put in place to allow all websites be treated as equal, no matter their content or how much bandwidth they would consume. The decision to repeal net neutrality, essentially allows internet service providers to prioritize access to certain websites over others. This act shifts the power of the government to the big telecommunications corporations and allows them to control and manipulate the speed, price, and essentially the content that is being viewed by their customers. This is where the net neutrality becomes an issue, which is the concept of the digital divide. The internet and the ability to access it has always been a socioeconomically issue. People from lower income backgrounds tend to not be able to afford internet or the devices that will allow them to connect to it. Now, with the new laws being put into place, it is only going to make it more difficult to access the internet. Angela Siefer, the director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, states that “choosing the internet service plan that is best for one’s household assumes there is choice of internet service providers with multiple speed and price offerings. This is not always the case, particularly in rural and inner-city neighborhoods. The internet service market is experiencing a failure. We know AT&T has digitally redlined some low-income communities. Might the deregulation of the Internet lead to additional digital redlining? Very likely we will see the dismantling of net neutrality leading to additional digital divides” (Siefer). Siefer makes a great point, as many people in the rural area and inner-city neighborhoods often do not have a choice between service providers and are often stuck with one plan, and with the repeal to net neutrality, they won’t have any options in the future. On top of the net neutrality laws, the government is also taking action to potentially change the Lifeline program. The Lifeline program was created during the Reagan administration and helps low-income Americans pay for telephone and internet services (Finley). These changes to the program would reduce available subsidies, make them available to fewer people, and cover fewer carriers making it much more difficult to connect to the internet (Finley).With the ruling to overturn net neutrality, this could mean the end of many smaller businesses. With the internet service providers in charge, they are able to partner with large companies and demand large amounts of money to promote their products. This will help to decrease the competition within the industry as smaller companies will no longer be able to promote their products. In countries where internet is not affordable, consumers are being offered “zero rating” of popular services by mobile providers. A zero rating is when a content provider pays the network provider to prioritize their content or service on its network to their customers. These zero-rated services include the world’s biggest website such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and are free to access without affecting the user’s data. Other services include WhatsApp, KakaoTalk, and WeChat, which help the customers reduce the cost of their phone calls and SMS messages (Malcolm). In a sense, this is great for the consumer because it allows them to access applications and have a connection to the internet but the risks outweigh the benefits. Using a zero rating system, essentially makes it easier for businesses to form an oligopoly because only a few companies will be sponsored by the network providers. Also, the concept of the digital divide comes back in effect, as lower-income consumers will likely use the free services rather than paying for the premium services. This allows the content providers such as Facebook and Twitter to essentially create their own network of information, which may or may not be accurate and the consumer may not always know because they do not have access to other platforms. Many argue that the internet has become so essential to everyday life and should that it should be treated as a public utility. This concept can be challenging, especially when it comes to the internet. In 2015, a 2-to-1 decision ruling from a three-panel judge at the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reaffirmed the government’s view that broadband is an essential rather than a luxury and needs to be supervised closely by the government (Kang). According to Cecilia Kang, she states that “the two judges who ruled in favor of the F.C.C emphasized the importance of the internet as an essential communications and information platform for consumers” (Kang). The internet as we know has changed dramatically. A platform once used for used for watching funny videos has become critical to the daily functions of humans such as communicating with friends and family, paying bills, and gathering information. Just as electricity and water keep us functioning, the internet plays a critical role in how we interact with each other and our daily survival. Others believe that the internet should never legally become a public utility as it will halt the investment and innovation in the industry. Although this may be true, the innovation that internet may develop overtime will not be useful when people are no longer able to access it due to the rising costs. Also, because the providers have so much power and control, how can we trust them to continue to providing the best product possible rather than giving the consumers outdated technology. The fight to not repeal net neutrality traveled throughout social media. Social media played a huge role in social uprisings throughout the world, most notably during the Arab uprising, where the protesters and demonstrators used social media as a platform to help create support for their revolt and has helped to bring new terms such as slacktivism. The concept of slacktivism focuses on bringing attention to causes through the use of social media. Much like the revolts, the fight against the repeal of net neutrality went straight to the internet. Fight for the Future, a digital rights advocacy group, launched the hashtag “Break The Internet” to help promote and motivate those who opposed of getting rid of the regulations (Beauchamp). Through the use of #BreakTheInternet and Fight for the Future, protesters were able to take a proactive approach to call their congress. The hashtag allowed for people to be an activist for a cause that they were passionate about and it did not take much effort (Beauchamp). Social media was plastered with net neutrality activism, from people’s twitter profile being switched to an angry emoji with the hashtag #StopTheFCC to Snapchat stories with a list of reasons why net neutrality is bad and a direct link to the net neutrality petition. All these were ways that people were able to join the fight against net neutrality without having to give much effort. Some people believe that the concept of slacktivism, at times, can be more of an annoyance rather than beneficial. In a paper by University of British Columbia graduate student Kirk Kristofferson and co-authors Katherine White and John Peloza, found that “those whose initial act of support is done more privately (for example, writing to a member of Congress) are more likely to engage in deeper, more costly forms of engagement later on. Those whose initial support is public (i.e. through posting a Facebook or Twitter) are less likely to engage more deeply” (Seay). Although the idea of slacktivism may not always be as effective as writing to a member of Congress, it is still extremely important as it starts the conversation going a creates more forums for people to voice their opinions. All in all, the repeal of net neutrality has created detrimental consequences towards the development of the internet. Companies are able to control the market, which in turn is creating a bigger digital divide, offering less competition, and not viewing the internet as a public utility. People have taken to social media to campaign against the decision to repeal net neutrality through the use of hashtags and slacktivism efforts. Although net neutrality was repealed, the fight to overturn the decision does not stop there. Net neutrality may not affect us now, but the longer we wait to take action, we will start to see the consequences of repealing net neutrality.