Let’s talk about a pretty unknown side effect of Donald Trump winning the United States Presidential Election: net neutrality.
First off, what is net neutrality? Net neutrality is the idea that Internet service providers (ISP) should provide equal access to all sources and websites. There should be no favoritism among services. If net neutrality is not enforced, then ISPs can throttle speeds to certain websites. Currently, this is still an issue: Verizon and other ISPs currently throttle Netflix in order to encourage people to subscribe to their own video services. Additionally, ISPs throttle video streaming to encourage their customers to purchase their cable TV packages. On a more extreme scale, ISPs could charge different amounts to access different websites (a possible example is shown in the picture). This restricts the very fundamental freedoms that the Internet is founded upon.
Ok, so how will a Trump presidency affect net neutrality? Let’s start with net neutrality currently. The enforcement of net neutrality and all telecommunication matters is done by the Federal Communications Committee (FCC). Tom Wheeler, Obama’s appointed head of the FCC, has been a strong supporter of net neutrality. In 2015 he passed orders enforcing principles of net neutrality, including preventing ISPs from blocking users’ access to content and throttling network traffic. This was a big step towards net neutrality – which will hopefully end in classifying the Internet as a public utility.
Now, with Trump’s selection of Jeffery Eisenach to lead his telecom transition team, all of this could be reverted. Jeffery Eisenach is an ally of the telecom industry, and has advocated for a “hands-off” approach in terms of digital issues. He slammed the current FCC for its approach on net neutrality among other Internet freedoms. He is likely to appoint members of the FCC that follow his ideals: anti-net neutrality. This will give ISPs a route to easily promote legislation through Congress, which will ultimately restrict freedom on the Internet. The Internet was founded on the ideals of free speech; acts against net neutrality go against this principle.
Additionally, Trump has taken positions that have gone against freedom on the Internet. In the recent San Bernadino terrorist attack, Trump supported the FBI in its attempt to force Apple to unencrypt their iPhone. Forcing Apple to unencrypt its iPhone would violate the idea of digital privacy. Would you let everyone look through your mail? It’s the same principle.
Net neutrality and Internet protection is better than it’s ever been; however, Trump’s appointments to the FCC could revert all of these changes, and make net neutrality non-existent. We need to work to ensure net neutrality for the future.