New FCC rules undoing net neutrality hit the Federal Register February 22nd. They won’t go into effect until April 2018 which leaves time for one last push to preserve the Internet as we know it.
For a sophomore in high school, it’s pretty normal to walk through chaos on the way to first block. The hallways are littered with teen antics: a couple making out, a group of boys throwing a basketball, another duo flinging a Frisbee, and usually a student or two finishing homework. But December 14, 2017 was a whole different kind of hectic.
Students and their social media were abuzz about the scheduled repeal of net neutrality. Wait, net neutrality? Yes, teenagers were concerned with the FCC ending Obama-era regulations which ensured that internet service providers could not block specific content or charge more for it.
Holden Ryu, a sophomore at my high school, stopped people in the hallway, reminding us of the impending loss of free and equal internet access. He urged everyone, from teachers to freshman, to pick up their phones and make a difference. He passed out the names and numbers of Colorado congressmen and distributed a text petition number. This was the first time Holden had become politically active, and it was because he felt he had to.
“Net neutrality is an incredibly important issue for the 21st century” said Holden. To him, “Free and easy access to information is something that is essential for any sort of progress to be made, and taking [that] away and making people pay for easy access is going to halt progress and bodes ill for our future.” A future which Holden reminded everyone, begins with Gen Z. As the current and growing majority of online users, we warrant not only a voice in internet legislation, but unalienable online rights. Why should we pay the dividends for the FCC’s big business decisions? Why should large service providers limit our access to the World Wide Web? We grew up during the golden age of the Internet, we became digital users as the free web took form, and we watched as companies and content grew simultaneously. As Holden puts it, “there’s just no need for change.”
Even after stepping into a classroom, tensions soared. Another student, Cooper Kofron, began asking anyone and everyone if he could use their phone. He used those phones to call the local senator’s office, calling so many times that the secretary learned his name. “Technology is important to our generation – it’s intertwined with all of our lives and is how we get media, social media, news, entertainment, everything ” said Cooper. Since Gen Z is dependent on the Internet, he explained that “no one should be penalized by their economic circumstance which is why “we have to preserve what we currently have.”
Beyond these real world acts of political engagement, the Internet roared with dissent from Gen Z.
Students went to Twitter, using #stopTheFCC, #freeInternet, and just contacting the FCC directly. On Snapchat, stories were filled with fiery vernacular and inspiring prose, and snaps were sent back and forth to give updates on the situation and rally support. While it may not match the outcry which teens displayed in the 1967 march on the Pentagon or the student involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, Gen Z is making a statement about why we need internet equality and freedom. This is how we share our voice, this is how we express dissent, and this is how we make change happen. That’s why we are not ready to let net neutrality go easy; teens everywhere are preparing for #OneMoreVote. On February 27th, Gen Z and Americans everywhere are preparing to spam the U.S. Senate in hopes that they will pass a motion to use the Congressional Review Act to keep net neutrality up and alive. Currently, only one more vote is needed for it to pass, and Gen Z is not going to let it go without a #fight.
Jasmine Bilir is a 16 year old high school student in Littleton, Colorado, reporting for the Youth Radio National Network.