As net neutrality expires, 92% of Americans worry about Web access

April 24, 2018

Net neutrality officially ended yesterday, April 23. Last December, the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal the Obama-era protections designed to ensure a “free and open” Internet for everyone.

At the end of December, The Harris Poll contacted 2,163 U.S. adults to ask how they felt about the agency’s decision to dismantle open Internet protections. The researchers found that—while over nine out of ten Americans (92%) believe that the Internet should be accessible to everyone—Americans are largely split on the basic principles of net neutrality. Just over half (55%) say big companies should be able to pay for their content to load faster for certain users

Efforts to abolish net neutrality were widely backed by the telecommunications industry, but criticized by both the tech industry and customer advocacy groups. In theory, neutrality was put in place to keep large internet service providers like AT&T and Verizon from arbitrarily slowing down user connections. One common concern is that ISPs might block or slow down users’ access to competing services, or offer preferential treatment to certain companies.

In reaction, nonprofits such as  NYC Mesh have begun installing antennas all over the Big Apple to offer New Yorkers a “community-owned” wireless network with unfettered access to the internet.

NYC Mesh comments, “Our network consists of Wi-Fi router ‘node,’ ‘supernodes,’ and fiber spread throughout the city. The network connects directly to the Internet backbone, so we do not rely on an ISP. All of our network nodes cooperate in the distribution of data, and the network can also function independently in case of emergencies or Internet shutdown.

The FCC’s decision has triggered legal challenges in several states and a coalition of 22 state attorneys general already have filed a lawsuit to reverse the FCC’s vote. Oregon and Washington State have enacted net neutrality laws and governors in four states—Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Vermont—have signed executive orders sustaining the principle.

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