Net neutrality is not a new issue. Community Tech Network was already writing about it in 2014! However, the political debate surrounding net neutrality does not look like it’s going to disappear any time soon.
To put it simply, net neutrality refers to the idea that the internet should be fair and open. It means that all content is treated equally, without having internet service providers (ISPs) either prioritize or discriminate against certain sites or services for their own benefit. For example, ISPs may want to manipulate internet traffic to direct you away from their competitors. Net neutrality prevents this.
So how does this relate to digital equity?
The concept of digital equity states that every individual deserves access to high-speed, reliable internet, and the library of information that it encompasses. Without net neutrality, ISPs could slow down service when folks are navigating certain websites, or they could charge extra fees for faster access to particular content. The wealthy would be able to still pay to access the information that they want — but what about everyone else?
Net neutrality plays a vital role in promoting digital inclusion and leveling the playing field. It ensures that everyone, regardless of their background or geographical location, can access the same information, educational resources, and opportunities online. By preserving net neutrality, we empower underserved communities to more fully participate in the digital age.
The federal government put protections into place in 2016 to promote net neutrality, but these were later overturned by the Trump administration.
Since then, it is very possible that the ISPs have been blocking and throttling (intentionally slowing down internet speeds) certain pages on the web. However, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does not require ISPs to report this data, which is concerning because we then have no idea of the level to which they are doing it.
States however still have the power to enact their own net neutrality laws. California was a leader in this movement.
Yet, at the federal level, politicians continue to debate the issue, even though 86% of Americans are in favor of net neutrality. The main opponents: ISPs and those who are backed by them.
If you support net neutrality, reach out to your local Congressperson and urge them to continue fighting for it.