Restricting the Freedom of the Internet

Students and teachers complain when UPA restricts them access to certain websites or when the Wi-Fi speed lags.

In other words, they take for granted their freedom to access the internet.

Now a Republican-dominated Federal Communications Commission (FCC) vote of 3-2 on Dec. 14 has repealed net neutrality regulations that have prohibited broadband providers from restricting internet users access to or charging them for using certain websites, effective since Feb. 26, 2015.

The repeal “[opens] the door for [internet service providers] to charge more to some big broadband users which could pass those increased costs to their subscribers,” according to USA Today.

Certain companies such as Verizon and AT&T might begin adding special fees for YouTube or Netflix to their customers’ monthly bills.

Users might also be required to pay for a mix of different options from their broadband providers, including plans that could block video sites, messaging apps and Skype.

While UPA Executive Director Daniel Ordaz is not the least perturbed by the repeal, he does acknowledge that there are potential ramifications in the future yet to be determined.

​The elimination of net neutrality could mean UPA’s internet service providers hinder Wi-Fi speeds, but the school has already been making preparations for Comcast to install fiber optic cables over Winter Break.

“The fiber optic cables would increase internet connection bandwidth and allow for faster downloads,” senior Anton Loeb said.

If the school’s internet service was affected, Ordaz would meet with the Board of Trustees to discuss options of coping with the loss of net neutrality, keeping a question in mind: Is the internet important for our students and our staff?

“The answer is: it’s indispensable,” Ordaz said. “All of our student records for attendance, for grades and for transcripts are done through computers, so I don’t have a choice. Many of our books are [on the] internet and much of the work you do in classrooms [is dependent on the] internet.”

Already mulling over several options to cope with the loss of net neutrality if the need for adjustments arise in the near future, Ordaz recommends students access free Wi-Fi from community venues, such as a local Starbucks or a library, when completing online homework or research after school.

“I also know that, for example, PG&E will provide low-cost service to seniors or to people who can’t pay for the service, but need to have it,” Ordaz said.

The effects from the repeal of net neutrality could be seen as soon as the next month, but large online companies—Amazon, Facebook, Netflix and Google—are currently still advocating for net neutrality and are planning to combat the FCC in court on behalf of consumers.

Congress also has the power to bring back net neutrality with a simple majority vote and by invoking the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which they intend to do in the next month.

The CRA gives Congress the ability to review new federal regulations by government agencies and overrule them if necessary.

“[This issue] is important to us [as well], so much as that we’ve improved our service by buying a better, faster service at the start of the year,” Ordaz said. “I hope [prices won’t go up]. I wish there was no money at all, but that’s just not life.”