As if the decision by the GOP-controlled Congress to give away our Internet privacy to ISP’s by allowing them to sell our browser history without consent wasn’t bad enough, NPR reports that Trump-appointed FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai is on board with the 2-1 FCC vote along party lines to review and potentially roll back net neutrality protections.
So what is net neutrality? To be brief, net neutrality is a protection which forbids more economically dominant corporations from paying Internet providers, like Comcast or AT&T, to have their websites stream faster than others.
If the net neutrality protection is repealed, we could see companies that provide both cable and Internet slow down services such as Netflix, which poses a threat to the cable TV industry. Independent publications like Berning Media, who can’t necessarily foot the bill for faster streaming, could also legally be targeted by ISP’s with slower streaming speeds.
Keep in mind, this isn’t the first time ISP’s have tried to take away net neutrality protections. Back in 2015, arstechnica reported that ISP’s didn’t think the Internet could legally be regulated as a “telecommunication”, because the ability to visit websites, use cloud storage, exchange e-mails, and transfer files make the Internet more accurately classified as an “information service”.
The Obama-era FCC rejected this assertion by referring to the Communications Act, which defined telecommunications as “the transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user’s choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received.”
According to the FCC at the time, Internet service quite literally “transmits information of the user’s choosing between points specified by the user” and is thus subject to regulation under the Communications Act.
Fast forward to the present, and it’s clear that the current FCC’s leadership disagrees, with Commissioner Pai stating his belief that net neutrality regulations are “like the proverbial sledgehammer being wielded against the flea. Except that here, there was no flea.”
This statement puts Pai at odds with the general public, the majority of whom supported net neutrality in the cable companies’ own anti-neutrality slanted survey.
Though majority support is not always enough to make a policy smart, in this case, the public supports net neutrality for justified reason. As stated before, without net neutrality, there would be nothing stopping companies from slowing down Internet speed for brands, ideas, or competition that they didn’t have economic ties with. There would also be nothing stopping the industry from making high-speed data something only wealthy organizations can afford.
Contrary to what some conservative think tanks disingenuously tell the American public, giving those “freedoms” to ISP’s would only serve to disempower the consumer by allowing wealthy corporations and individuals to claim the exclusive right to high-speed broadband within their homes.
Internet start-ups, cable alternatives like Netflix and Hulu, and potentially non-corporate media could all be subject to de facto censoring by slowing down the speed at which their content can be viewed by consumers like you.
If you’re scared, don’t be culled into inaction. There’s still hope to protect net neutrality.
Right now, one thing everyone do is use the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s form to submit a letter to the FCC detailing why you want them to keep the Internet free and open for everyone.
Another, perhaps more permanent solution, would be a Congressional act specifically enshrining net neutrality into law, which would keep the Internet free and open for the foreseeable future.
Given the GOP’s Congressional record on selling out Internet users, however, it’s probably wiser to help elect Progressives up and down the ballot in 2018. The Internet as we know it could depend on it.