Opinion: Net neutrality could push state forward

Posted on Oct 18 2017 - 8:00am by Woody Dobson

Internet freedom is the 21st century lifeline. It’s been a recent part of growth in small towns and to the whole world. But many don’t believe in the power of internet freedom. Many may think state laws and national laws around the internet are fictitious or the concerns are exaggerated, but I’m talking about something larger at stake.

Being online was my entire childhood. I was learning about the internet before I could drive and way before smartphones existed. Playing my PlayStation 3 was my progressive step toward mastering the internet. However, I had one illogical view regarding my own online presence. I felt safe in an online world.

Yet, when I was just 14 years old, I began dismantling the locality of internet service providers (ISPs) and searching for their true motives on how and why they restrict content. Even as a young teenager, I was analyzing Time Warner Cable’s monitoring provisions on viewing personalized content, while other teenagers watched stuff like MTV. And then it happened.

I met two out-of-the-box thinkers on PlayStation Network. These two gentlemen took a strong liking to my self-guided interest into ISP privacy sectors and mentored me in what the internet service industry would become. Additionally, these tech geeks trained me to interpret critical information on how and why ISPs do what they do.

It sounded like some far-fetched governmental conspiracy theory, but it wasn’t. Many local ISPs were analyzing the flow of private data for personal gain. I’m glad I didn’t take this knowledge for granted.

As I grow older, I’m starting to grow increasingly paranoid about acceptance of the internet, especially in my home region. Edward Snowden’s reveal of the NSA’s espionage tactics in 2013 didn’t aid my acceptance of ISPs; rather, it decreased my enthusiasm for the general web.

Just this year, Donald Trump appointed the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to reduce openness of the web in 2017 by giving localized ISPs the power to regulate what they want on the current internet plane.

But that raises an alarming question. With this former Verizon employee who views the internet like major corporations do in control of federal internet policy, will the gathering of information online be restricted by the few major tech companies in the near future?

Mississippi, where I’m from, is, in fact, the caboose to progress that the rest of the nation hauls forward. Since just two years ago, nearly a third of Mississippians did not have access to high-speed broadband internet, some might ask: Will Mississippi be limited forever? Not if we don’t interpret the past and prepare for the future regarding localized ISP internet regulations.

Today, Mississippi enjoys the privilege of obtaining any important information from the web. YouTube and Facebook are just the tip of this content iceberg of what ISPs can provide. ISP regulations in the state are currently stable from monopolist interest, but who knows for how long, given the steps provided by Pai nationally.

Giving individuals the freedom to surf online and gather information freely and locally is the ultimate, modern lifeline for the Magnolia State.

Woody Dobson is a senior journalism major from Tupelo.