Internet users at risk

Erika Bradley

On Wednesday, Sept. 24 Congresswoman Doris Matsui, along with commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel of the Federal Communications Commission, met at the Capitol with five California witnesses to discuss their views on the proposal of paid prioritization, which would greatly affect the way Sacramento State students access information.

Net neutrality ensures internet service providers do not favor certain companies or websites and do not block or control access to content.

Chairman of the FCC, Tom Wheeler’s paid prioritization proposal would allow companies to pay internet service providers to be streamed faster than others, creating “fast” and “slow” lanes and therefore forming a digital divide.

From May 15 to Sept. 16, more than 3.7 million comments were received by the FCC on the proposal, a record-setting number of comments they have received on any topic.

The meeting was a chance for FCC commissioners to get out of the “beltway” in Washington D.C. and speak to representatives in California, according to the media literature.

Rivkah Sass, Library Director of Sacramento Public Library, was one of the five witnesses at the net neutrality meeting. The Sacramento Public Library is currently the fourth largest in California and serves 1.4 million people.

Sass said the creation of these fast and slow lanes is very dangerous to college students because it is preventing access.

“An open internet is not a privilege for the affluent, it is the right of each and every one of us,” Sass said. “Internet resources must remain affordable for libraries and freely acceptable for those we serve. Without this guarantee, there is a danger that libraries will face higher service charges for so-called premium access and that could result in for-profit colleges and other commercial ventures having faster access, than say, a library or community college.”

Mary Reddick, Head of Online Curriculum Library Services at Sac State, said the library world is in strong support of the right to open internet access.

“Much of the library’s budget is spent on providing access to subscription-based content and this content must be accessible to students,” Reddick said.

Paid prioritization would give preferential treatment to companies that could afford to pay for faster streaming, therefore marginalizing smaller businesses, entrepreneurs, schools and libraries.

“When it seems like the internet [as] you know it today may change and not for the better, Americans do speak up and that is what we are seeing today,” Matsui said.

Paid prioritization would affect everything from healthcare to education to television watching. Commissioner Clyburn stated there is an increased reliance on mobile broadband and Wi-Fi and that this current trend will only continue.

Students at Sac State rely on both fixed and mobile broadband to access school sites, such as SacCT blackboard and the library databases, to access information and conduct research.

Corey Ordonez, mastering in public policy and administration, depends on being able to openly access information for research.

“I heavily rely on the open internet to conduct research,” said Ordonez. “While I occasionally rely on print material for research, I only use that material when it has yet to be created in PDF (or internet accessible) form. It would certainly be frustrating if it takes three times (3x) as long to download academic articles just so someone can stream the latest episode of Orange is the New Black.”

Another field greatly affected is television, for leisure or academic purposes.

According to an article by Michael Wolff of USA Today, 70 percent of internet data is video and of that 50 percent is Netflix.

A college student studying film or wanting to put their work on YouTube after paid prioritization would have a difficult time doing so.

Melissa Rosenberg, member of the Writers Guild of America, said paid prioritization would crush creativity and the ability for people to have their voices heard. Since she began her career as a screenwriter, many things have changed because of the creation of the internet and right to open access.

“It’s expanded our ability to tell stories because I can go see someone else’s experiences. If I’m trying to develop a character from Nairobi, I have infinite access to people who live there, have different jobs, tragedies; so it expands my ability to tell a story,” Rosenberg said.

Limiting access would change the fields of television and film and the way college students and future producers have their voices heard and content viewed.

Brandon Morgan, communication digital media major, spoke of the difficulties a film student could face in the future.

“I think the biggest effect is how students like myself look at distribution models in the future,” Morgan said. “With paid prioritization some distribution systems, such as Netflix, get really hit by that, and it may cause independent and student films that may want to seek distribution digitally to lose out because they wouldn’t be able to afford the enormous cost it would take to get their film distributed.”

Congresswoman Matsui and Sen. Leahy proposed a bill, Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act of 2014, which will ultimately ban broadband providers from giving “preferential treatment or priority to content”.

“Net neutrality should be a matter of the utmost importance to the current generation,” said Reddick.

Congresswoman Matsui is still taking comments on this issue. You can leave a comment at [email protected]