Net Neutrality and Why it is Necessary

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Courtesy: unsplash

Dustin Gayer, Contributor

The internet is an integral facet of our world. It has found itself increasingly prevalent in the medical communities who care for patients and in classrooms with teachers and students adapting to virtual learning.

Net neutrality is needed to ensure internet providers cannot restrict speeds or lock them from viewing certain content. 

Without net neutrality, the technological divide will continue to grow. This will result in people who can afford access and faster speeds will have a greater informational advantage compared to those who cannot afford the access.

On March 29, 2021, a hearing was requested by PA State Senator Amanda Cappelletti serving Delaware and Montgomery Counties, and State Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler 184th District Philadelphia County, as well as Sen. Katie Muth Representing the 44th district.

The zoom meeting was requested to discuss the need for net neutrality across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

“We are gathered here today to talk to experts to find a way to upgrade Pennsylvania’s technological infrastructure,” Cappelletti said.

The Trump administration repealed the net neutrality regulations put in place by the Obama administration. That allowed the FCC to regulate broadband providers.

There are public safety concerns with not having net neutrality in place that allows internet providers to favor one department over another.

“For example, in California Verizon suppressed the fire departments’ internet speed preventing them from properly communicating with each other while battling the largest wildfire in the state’s history.” Josh Stager, Deputy Director, Broadband and Competition Policy, Open Technology Institute said. 

After the past year, our reliance on the internet to do everything from work to school and even doctors’ visits dependency on the internet is now essential to our way of life. 

“The internet is a utility, and the law should treat it that way.” Stager said.

There are many parts of Pennsylvania that do not have access to broadband internet, limiting access to medical care and creating an educational divide in the state. 

Rural Pennsylvania is heavily impacted by the lack of internet service or dependable service.

“In this post-Covid era, the importance of keeping a neutral broadband service provision has never been greater.” Sascha Meinrath, Palmer Chair in Telecommunications, Penn State University said.

Small business is having trouble adapting to a more online model because of lack of connectivity in many areas of Pennsylvania.

Within the last year, the transition from in-person learning to online learning has greatly impacted the ability of children to learn. In addition, there have been many parts of Pennsylvania that cannot transition to online classes due to connectivity issues and lack of funding to be able to afford the devices to allow for a transition to online courses.

“My students were able to go on business as usual simply because of where they live and the social economics of their family, but for many students in the Commonwealth that is not the experience. That is not ok in Pennsylvania that recognizes itself a commonwealth.” Hollie Woodard, English Teacher and Technology Coach said.

Telehealth has become even more important and more frequently used than ever before. Allowing people access to medical care when they are not physically able to go see a doctor. 

But there are many parts of Pennsylvania that are not able to use telehealth applications to see their providers, due to lack of access to the internet or poor connectivity.

“Health care has increasingly becoming digitized and differential access to broadband will inherently mean differential access to essential medical services.” Dr. Glenn Updike said.

Because of the uncompetitive market of internet providers in the United States, we pay much higher prices for slower speeds when compared to many other countries.

“The profit margins for internet connectivity are 90% plus profit margins. How that is not price gouging I don’t know but the federal trades commissions has been asleep at the wheel on this as well as the FCC.” Meinrath said.

Stager and Meinrath agree that something as simple as pricing transparency would reduce pricing and promote accountability, under the current model there is a complete and total lack of accountability.

Currently, consumers do not know what they are paying for compared to others, and when you call the companies directly, they cannot tell you exactly what you or anyone else is paying.

“An example of what price transparency regulation policy looks like is the federal E-Rate program. This is a program which allows schools and libraries to connect to the internet. It’s a multibillion-dollar program it’s been around since 1996, but for the first decade of its existence, it did not have pricing transparency. Approximately 7-8 years ago the FCC changed the policy resulting in the ISP having to disclose what price they were charging each school and library through this program. Within one year of that amendment, the prices fell by 90% simply do to the transparency.” Stager said.

For more information on these topics and senate meeting schedules. 

https://www.newamerica.org/oti/reports/cost-connectivity-2020/focus-on-the-united-states

https://www.legis.state.pa.us/

https://pasenate.com/

https://pahouse.com/

https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/CMS/index.cfm?Chamber=S 

The list of attendees at the hearing included:

Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, Rep. Frank Burns, Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, Rep. Mark A. Longietti, Rep, Eddie Day Pashinski. Rep. Christopher Sainato, Rep. Ben Sanchez, Rep. Joe Webster.

Sen. Jay Costa, Senator. Wayne Fontana, Sen. Katie Muth, Sen. James Brewster.

Sen. Amanda Cappelletti, Sen. Tim Kearney, Sen. Lindsey Williams.

The speakers included Josh Stager, Sascha Meinrath, Hollie Woodard, Dr. Glenn Updike, MD.