Welcome to the Line

Posted on Categories Intellectual Property Law, Legal Education, Marquette Law School, Media & Journalism, Public

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took up and reversed net neutrality.  If you are unfamiliar with net neutrality, it is the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are not allowed to discriminate against certain users, websites, content, or whatever else.  For example, Spectrum (formerly Time Warner) is not allowed to block its users from or charge them for accessing Facebook.  Or, for a real-life example, Madison River Communications was fined $15,000 by the FCC for restricting their costumers’ access to a rival service. John Oliver explains net neutrality here. (Language warning.)  In a way, you could think of net neutrality as an equal opportunity law for the internet.  Or, at least you could have.  On December 14, 2017, FCC chairman Ajit Pai and the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality, which leaves the internet in the United States in a fairly bad spot.

Luckily, in my opinion, the FCC has a gauntlet of lawsuits to go through now that it repealed net neutrality.  It also seems there is a fair number of people who share my viewpoint.  As it stands, the FCC had something around 22 million complaints filed against its ruling.  FCC Chairman Pai canceled his scheduled appearance at the to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas due to death threats.  On top of this, the Internet Association is bringing together powerhouse companies to join the fight against the unpopular ruling.  Companies like Google, Amazon, Etsy, and Alphabet have stated they are joining the lawsuit.  The Internet Association’s President and CEO Michael Beckerman stated, “The final version of Chairman Pai’s rule . . . dismantles popular net neutrality protections for consumers.  This rule defies the will of a bipartisan majority of Americans and fails to preserve a free and open internet.”    Netflix even took to Twitter and sent the message, “In 2018, the Internet is united in defense of #NetNeutrality.  As for the FCC, we will see you in court.”  Furthermore, a number of states have come forward stating their opposition to the repeal and have indicated that they, too, will join the fight.

Seeing this net neutrality issue unfold has solidified my choice to attend law school.  Being a first-year law student fresh out of my first set of finals, I have yet to shake off the sticker shock of the loans I had to take out to subject myself to the grueling task at hand, and all that is still to come.  Seeing such a massive outcry against a government act, though, has tossed those thoughts out of my head.  How else could one truly pick a fight with the government?  I mean, yes, a person can protest, camp out in front of some building, or join a march somewhere. But really, how can a person truly stand up and push back against something I go as far as calling an almost tyrannical act? My answer: the courtroom.

Now, many of you may have probably heard the phrase “Hold the Line” before.  It is said in movies and video games, written in books, and found generally anywhere you could find a leader of a fight trying to create some inspiration.  The frequency of its use, however, does not take away from the power of the statement.  As you may have read in the guest blogger introduction, I was a soldier.  More specifically, I was a Cavalry Scout in the U.S. Army, a scout who had a Commanding Officer who loved finishing up his speeches with “Hold the Line,”  He always stated this because modern battlefields don’t really have battle lines like the wars of the past, so, being scouts, we had to make them.  Searching out pockets of enemies and poking the hornets’ nest, so to speak, was pretty much the entirety of our existence.  It is what we trained for, and it is what we did.

The life of a scout has left an imprint on me.  Seeing a fight to be had, a shift in thought process goes to tactical maneuvering.  Would I fight here? If not, where? Who is the adversary?  What are their strengths and weaknesses? Where is there a pressure point?  What are their possible contingencies?  All questions the lawyers in the net neutrality fight are probably thinking of right now.  It dawned on me that setting up lines and drawing in an entity to a fight is an act that is practiced everyday in the court system.  I have found a new sense of excitement going into the next semester because of this.  I have replaced one battlefield for the next.  I have found that being a lawyer would be pretty similar to being a scout (except the food and pay is much better).  As I am sitting here making my first attempt at writing a blog, lawyers who are fighting for net neutrality are gearing up for a fight that will have lasting effects on our nation, but, more importantly, we the people of that nation.

It is my hope that in a few short years I, too, can stand in a position to fight for people who can’t fight for themselves, just as the lawyers are who are fighting for net neutrality are.  Those lawyers are holding the line.  While people may have different reasons for going to law school, all who graduate are in the position to hold a line.  Whatever your politics and beliefs are, being a lawyer will give you the ability to fight for those who are unable to fight themselves.  And though I am not a lawyer yet, I am a veteran of the line, and so I want to be the first to tell you, “Hold the Line.”

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