Let’s Save Net Neutrality While We Can

It’s no secret that Emory’s online services can be glitchy. For example, Emory’s Xfinity on Campus service often crashes midway through a broadcast and OPUS’ impossible-to-navigate interface stalls tremendously during peak enrollment times. However, the low quality of Emory’s online services pales in comparison to the reality students will face under recent policy changes regarding net neutrality.

On Feb. 22, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published a “Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order” to repeal net neutrality regulations, to a startling lack of public response. Perhaps Emory students remain uninformed about the repeal, but both students and the University should should be more alarmed by the disastrous consequences of the FCC’s repeal.

Instituted in 2015 by then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, net neutrality forces internet service providers (ISPs), like Comcast or Verizon, to load all websites and data at equal speeds for all users. Without this regulation, those corporations are free to not only slow down websites to the point of inaccessibility, but also to completely block users from certain websites. Net neutrality forbade money-grubbing corporations from censoring information and creating an oligopoly.

If you care about your fellow students, your freedom of expression or your own right to information, I encourage students to contact U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) to express your support for a free and open internet, and to petition Emory to end its relationship with Xfinity and its parent corporation, Comcast. While we would lose free television services, it would be a necessary first step toward showing support for a truly free internet.

For Emory students across different social classes, political opinions and economic beliefs, net neutrality rules are necessary and beneficial. The U.S. Senate has introduced a resolution to reintroduce net neutrality regulations, and it has already garnered support from 50 Democratic senators for the bill. However, the Senate requires one additional supporter before April 23, when net neutrality is officially removed and ISPs are free to hold their customers’ internet service for ransom.

While this revival bill is largely split across party lines, more than 80 percent of the general public — registered Democrats and Republicans alike — support net neutrality. The current state of the internet allows us to freely state our opinions and access information in order to form those opinions. The loss of freedom for the sake of profit should never be tolerated.

Moreover, without net neutrality, Americans’ economic freedom would be completely crushed. ISPs have already established an oligopoly of coverage. Each corporation has met to divide up land in such a way that each corporation dominates small zones of the country without competing with one another. The FCC’s repeal cements this oligopoly and gives power to the communications giants, crushing any possibility of new competition and stifling economic growth. Perhaps what becomes most unforgivable is the violation of states’ rights to economic regulation. Comcast and the FCC are even moving to block state net neutrality legislation in states like Washington.

Emory students cannot simply assume that all their peers will have or be able to afford to maintain an internet connection without the University’s support. This is true now more than ever as Comcast seeks to slow down internet speeds to unbearable levels in exchange for profit. With the advent of Canvas and other online assignments, studying and maintaining a good grade is impossible without at least some use of the internet. Moreover, many companies have migrated their job applications to websites and electronic forms that cannot be accessed without an internet connection. In 2018 and beyond, internet access is a requirement for competing in higher education and the job market; providing students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds with net-neutral internet should be a priority for all Emory students and University administration.

Thankfully, Emory curates and provides its own internet connection. Faulty though it may be, EmoryUnplugged is an independent network that loads websites at reasonably quick speeds. However, this commendable effort is marred by the University’s recent deal with Xfinity (and its parent company Comcast) to provide University students with television services. Emory University has shown that it has no regard for the impact this corporation will leave on its graduating students and former employees. Emory should end its relationship with Xfinity/Comcast not only to support net neutrality, but also because their service is buggy and useless outside of the Emory bubble.

While I understand that the service is useful in providing students with more programming, the service neither works well enough or seems to have been well-received enough to warrant its continued existence. There is plenty of alternative programming and many better alternative news and entertainment sources to turn to. Emory’s current relationship with a corporation that has acted against net neutrality should be eliminated. Not only would the quality of Xfinity/Comcast’s service jeopardized by an end to net neutrality, but partnering with such an unethical provider — that will swoop in and suck students and staff dry for a basic necessity after they leave campus — makes the University itself appear unprincipled.

Unless another senator changes their stance, America’s access to free information will be destroyed on April 23 by the people who were supposed to protect it — unless we stand up to save net neutrality.

Daniel Park is a College junior from Ridgewood, N.J.