Just a few days ago, the FCC officially began the process of shedding the net neutrality protections it adopted in 2015. What seemed somewhat abstract in the aftermath of the December vote has started to become real — the free and open internet will be a different arena by April 23rd.
Many in the technology community had strong feelings about this decision, and as educators, what concerns us most was how the decision might affect our students and their future. For example, even the most experienced developers rely on a litany of free online resources to write code. In an internet where some content can be prioritized over others, would those resources become harder to access? Also, many of our students hope to join fast-growing startups in emerging industries. Will those companies be affected by a pay-to-play internet?
While there’s only so much that can be done, there are ways you can get educated on the issue, what it will mean for you, and what you can do to make your voice heard on the policy front.
Understand the landscape
While the FCC currently handles regulatory policy, congress has the ability to permanently enshrine net neutrality protections into law. Therefore, all consumers should make it a priority to know how their elected officials stand in terms of net neutrality protections. To make it easier for you to see where both incumbents and challengers stand on net neutrality, you can search this Thinkful graduate-designed resource.
Get savvy on local legislation
26 states currently have state-level net neutrality bills under consideration. While these are less comprehensive than a national bill, experts say they can indirectly affect net neutrality by leveraging the state’s power as a buyer of internet service.
For example, Georgia has a number of state-level contracts with internet service providers like Verizon Wireless and AT&T. Those contracts expire in 2022. Georgia could pass legislation, some already in the works, saying that future contracts will only be signed with ISPs that guarantee certain protections. Residents of each state should educate themselves on any bills already in the works, decide how they feel about such legislation, and whether they want to serve as an advocate.
Currently, six out of the 10 largest internet-based companies in the world are headquartered in the United States, and the future is bright for many of the country’s digital startups. The big question is now: what will that future look like?
Adam Levenson works for Thinkful, a new type of school that brings high-growth tech careers to ambitious people everywhere.