“If they (Twitter) did start to charge, I don’t know how I’d react. I’m pretty addicted, so I’d probably at least consider paying for it.” – Matt Loveland
With a newsfeed filled with #MeToo and #MarchforOurLives, the issue of net neutrality has been far from the public’s mind in the last few months. With upcoming action on the repeal of net neutrality, knowledge and local opinion regarding the conditions of the repeal are necessary.
What is Net Neutrality? Net neutrality is dedicated to maintaining an internet with equal access, regardless of source, and without favoring certain websites over the others. This means that one company should not have power over another; Netflix should not have more bandwidth than another smaller streaming site.
There are numerous factors in deciding whether to keep or repeal net neutrality. The neutral internet allowed creativity to be sparked among businesses, as they all could have a prime functional website. Without it, there would be major competition loss to online businesses, and larger companies would have an unfair advantage over startups. According to the Congressional Research Service, larger companies could potentially pay for faster internet, leaving small companies behind and their viewers to decline, according to Forbes’ Jenny Odegard.
If net neutrality is repealed, corporate giants such as Netflix and YouTube would thrive, says The Atlantic writer Joe Pinsker. Their websites would be optimized to gain viewers and visits, as they would be given a larger bandwidth.
The FCC (Federal Communications Commision) is an independent federal agency composed of five commissioners who released the latest set of neutrality rules in 2010. This commission is in charge of these neutrality rules and plays a major role in the maintaining or repealing of net neutrality. According to FCC chairperson Ajit Pai, his repeal of net neutrality will “stop micromanaging the Internet.”
New York State and Net Neutrality John Katko, the Republican Representative of the 24th district, which contains Le Moyne, voted in January to repeal net neutrality. When contacted about his stance on net neutrality, his office stated that he did not have an official position on the issue.
When contacted through his office email, Katko responded by saying: “It is imperative that the internet remain an open and accessible source of information as it has always been. I strongly believe that the free flow of information on the World Wide Web should not be impeded.”
“However, I believe FCC regulation of the internet as a utility could inhibit innovation and progress,” he added. “We must address the challenges of growing demand for bandwidth and increasing usage while making sure it remains a thriving engine of innovation.”
Like several other representatives in New York, Katko has received monetary donations from several different internet service providers and individuals in the sector, amounting up to $33,250, according to OpenSecrets. Although the support to repeal net neutrality has been predominantly a Republican goal, these donations have been bipartisan when looking for congress and senators to support the FCC’s goal.
So, how could the repeal of net neutrality affect your internet usage during your time at Le Moyne? According to Leslie Streissguth, Associate Director for the Office of Career Advising, “there is potential for Career Advising to be indirectly impacted by the repeal.” The office of Career Advising and Development provides resources and opportunities for students to take advantage of before they graduate. “If the repeal is upheld, some smaller companies, students, and graduates searching for work will not have consistent access to all apps/web content,” said Streissguth. “The repeal has the potential to limit access to possible job opportunities and the like in that the breadth of job searches could be curtailed.”
Shaun Black, Senior Director of IT at Le Moyne, believes that the fall of net neutrality would indirectly affect Le Moyne students and faculty.
“As a provider of educational services and as an organization that the relies upon distributed information services partners (i.e. Google, Instructure, Technolutions, Blackboard, Amazon, Zoom, etc.), we need to watch carefully,” said Black. “If our partners are required to pay increased fees to maintain the same levels of service, we’ll likely witness this as increased costs without receiving any tangible benefit…Imagine if our LMS, Instructure’s Canvas, were substantially slower for some cable customers or if our public website performed more slowly for one cellular carrier.”
Black does not predict many effects in the near term in regards to it affecting the IT department at Le Moyne. “We’ll need to monitor the industry and how service providers react to the changing regulatory landscape and be prepared to adjust,” he said.
Le Moyne’s current internet service provider is Cogent Communications, a multinational company ranked as one of the top five networks in the world.
Black said that factors considered when choosing an internet service provider for the college were the tier of the internet provider, size, capacity and peering arrangements of provider, experience of other institutions and lastly, price.
“We leave the option open from year to year and periodically review options and in recent years the decision has been to remain with Cogent,” said Black.
The CEO of Cogent Communications, Dave Schaeffer, spoke about the FCC’s decision at UBS’ 45th Annual Global Media and Communications Conference, saying that no net neutrality is a bad thing for “the entire internet ecosystem.” Cogent has declared its support for net neutrality on its webpage: “It is Cogent’s belief that both the customer and the Internet as a whole are best served if the application layer remains independent from the network…We intend to oppose the FCC’s action in the judicial review process – supporting lawsuits opposing the action, in Congress – supporting efforts to overturn the action, and in state legislatures – supporting efforts to enforce Net Neutrality at the state level.”
While some are upset over the issue, there are still many students who aren’t aware of the severity of the situation.
“The crazy thing about net neutrality is that like most issues, people are either uneducated on the topic or unbothered by it because they don’t understand how much it effects them,” said Dr. Matt Loveland, of the political science department. “If the repeal is upheld, it’s only going to get worse. I believe that internet infrastructure should be a public utility.”