Over 277,000,000 people in the United States use the internet. We use it to find jobs and plan events, to research, and to connect, and we have the freedom to use whatever websites we desire. In a time when a significant portion of our lives depends on the internet, the ability of Internet service providers (ISPs) to censor and direct our internet traffic is dangerous and unconstitutional.

Net Neutrality— the idea that all data over the internet should be treated equally by ISPs— has been in effect since 2015. However, in January 2017, the Trump administration took the White House, and Ajit Pai, a commissioner of the FCC and previous employee at Verizon, was appointed commissioner of the FCC.

In April, Ajit Pai began making proposals that were directed at repealing Net Neutrality. On December 14, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to end net neutrality, which would allow them to prioritize certain websites and corporations over others. They could restrict access to Netflix, Hulu, or other sites by forcing customers to purchase an extra media package for their internet plan, for example. Even worse, they could block sites from their service completely.

One of the problems with a lack of Net Neutrality is the effect it will have on small businesses. Allowing ISPs to prioritize certain websites over others will cause an imbalance between corporations and smaller companies. Businesses like Microsoft and Amazon would be able to pay for a faster connection to their sites, but smaller companies may not be able to do the same. Net Neutrality favors the larger corporations at the expense of small companies and would eliminate competition for entrenched internet monopolies.

Without Net Neutrality, ISPs are able to slow down or block any website they see fit. This also includes news sites, which many people use to keep up with current events. This ability encroaches on the right to a free press and of free speech. As people, we have a basic right to free opinion and information. Giving ISPs the power to censor speech over the internet violates some of our most fundamental rights. Ajit Pai is essentially giving the ISPs the jurisdiction block out whatever they want to hide.

The FCC’s decision to repeal Net Neutrality endangers the fundamental tenet of the internet: that it be a free space for all.