As a student, how do net neutrality laws affect you?

On Sept. 30, 2018 Governor Jerry Brown enacted a law for the state of California to abide by the principles of net neutrality. Just after two hours of Brown’s announcement of his decision, the Department of Justice stepped in to proclaim their intent to sue the state for going against the federal government’s decision to repeal net neutrality back in June of this year.

Net neutrality, when put simply, means that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as Comcast, AT&T and the like cannot lawfully slow down or speed up certain apps, sites or services to gain favor among customers. Net neutrality laws would hold all ISPs to the expectation that they treat all internet traffic the same – thus creating open, uninterrupted and accessible content for all.

Which, for consumers and smaller starter companies are very much a good thing. Net neutrality is essentially the internet version of a free market. There’s constant competition, with all the competitors playing by the same rules.

If net neutrality laws were to remain repealed, it would mean that there would be a fast and slow lane for ISPs. ISPs would have to pay more money to be in the fast lane, which in turn, means more for the consumer. It gives bigger ISPs and other services and apps with the most money the power to slow down content to deter customers from accessing it.

ISPs can block content that they disagree with, as well as granting them the ability to charge their customers premium prices to access the faster loading speeds, faster download speeds; the possibilities are endless. Without net neutrality, we lend the power and freedom of the internet in the hands of whichever ISPs pays the most money to be in the fast lane.

So, what does this mean for students? Well, it’s not likely to be a good outcome. With slower speeds, slower downloads and limits as to what content we have access to, it wouldn’t be as efficient as it is right now. Right now, our internet is open and free – all sites have equal speeds and our access to content from varying sources with differing opinions have no barriers from us. Without net neutrality, though, finding objective and honest content might be a lot more difficult, depending on the ISP and where they stand.

ISPs would then have the capability to charge schools higher prices to grant their students adequate internet, which depending on the school and how much they’re willing to pay, could be disastrous. The more time spent doing homework for one class means less time to do tasks for others.

If ISPs charge schools more money for better student access, some schools may decide to reflect those increased prices back onto the students with increased tuition. Or, they may simply decide to opt for a cheaper plan, severely limiting their students.

Luxuries like Netflix, Hulu or even Spotify might not be as accessible to us as they are now. It would all depend on how much schools would be willing to pay. Either way, however, the student would end up paying more.

Being stretched for time like that leaves the possibility for heightened amounts of anxiety and depression in students, as many feel as though there are already too many they have to face. Especially for students living off campus, their choices for content and speed would be limited to what ISP they could afford. With internet providers already being as expensive as they are, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume it would be even more without net neutrality.

As we can see, net neutrality as it is right now is very student and consumer friendly. It keeps ISPs in check. Fates of the internet and access remain predictable, as anyone can access whatever they want at any given time. Without net neutrality, the fates of students remain in the air – that’s what’s most frightening. There is too much at stake for the amount of uncertainty and possibilities.

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