Opinion General

Net neutrality is necessary for democracy

In the wake of a vote by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to repeal net neutrality in the United States, the elimination of net neutrality promotes anti-consumer behaviours and sets dangerous precedents for the democratization of information.

Net neutrality, essentially, is the democratic principle of treating all users, websites, applications, and information equally, without being discriminated by an internet service provider (ISP). This means that a user could access whichever website they wish without being blocked or throttled or favoured over others. Net neutrality ensures that anybody can access the internet unhindered. However, the FCC’s intention of repealing net neutrality in the United States ensures that ISPs can put up paywalls and package website access for profit, or favour certain websites over others by exempting them from data caps. For example, this could potentially mean paying a $10 per month package for social media websites or favouring faster Netflix access over slower Hulu access.

Net neutrality ensures that the internet remains equal and neutral, ensuring high bandwidths and fast load times for users while also making sure that the internet is an equal playing field for all websites and companies. Not only that, net neutrality is the 21st-century foundation of democracy, as it enables open communication with people from across the country and around the world. Net neutrality ensures that users are able to educate themselves, express themselves, and organize themselves without unnecessarily paying ISPs to do so.

Massive deregulation of industry has never sat well with me, since it usually means large corporations saying “shut up, and let me do whatever I want to make money,” even if it requires stooping down to low ethical standards to do so. The defense of upending net neutrality is, among others, digital piracy, market pressures, and overregulation. While there are some legitimate reasons for deregulation of internet laws, net neutrality is just simply one of those resolute fixtures of modern society that would be practically unthinkable to remove, like dismantling universal healthcare. Regulations ensure that the people are protected, for better or for worse, and covered under government oversight so that nobody falls at the whims at private interests.

Thankfully, the Trudeau government and the CRTC are making steps to ensure that net neutrality in Canada is protected in light of the recent events in the United States. However, the telecommunications oligopoly of Rogers, Telus, and Bell have been standing at the gates for years, waiting for their opportunity to dominate the market and charge customers even more than they do already. Net neutrality is an essential part of how our democracy works, and it must be protected from pushes for deregulation in order to maintain our quality of internet service, our freedom of information, and our open access to the world at large.

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