Keep the Net Neutral
The FCC’s Plan To Kill Net Neutrality Has Kicked Into Overdrive
November 23, 2017 1:08 am by Jacob McAllister
The FCC released their plan today to dismantle the Obama era regulations known as net neutrality, which were put in place to ensure equal access to the internet. The sweeping repeal lays the foundation for internet service providers to charge extra fees for certain content, or even to prohibit content at their discretion.
The big companies that provide internet services have been aggressively lobbying for this change for years now, and it appears to have paid off in a big way.
Here are some of the ways in which this proposal destroys the internet as we know it:
- It is a full repeal of the Title II of the Communications Act, which establishes that broadband providers are classified under the same framework as telephone networks, since access to their services is necessary for full participation in society. This provision, known as universal service, is a key component in providing affordable internet access to the public.
- In place it allows broadband providers to block access to, slow down, or speed up service at their discretion, at any time. They don’t even have to provide a reason, all they have to do is notify the customer
- The plan incentivizes a pay-to-play system, leaving the majority of sites stuck in the cold while only the bigger companies can afford life in the fast lane
- This practice is clearly anti-competitive in nature, as it deprives small businesses of the level playing field they require in order to compete in the marketplace. They are often shut out of the discussion altogether
- With more and more consolidation taking place in the broadband industry, companies like Comcast and AT&T will enjoy monopoly power and be able to control pricing
- Free speech will certainly suffer in this environment, as no real checks are placed on the ability of providers to limit access to content they deem unfit, politically or otherwise
All of this spells trouble for the internet as it currently exists.
Shifting the Goalposts
The order was crafted by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who is himself a fierce opponent of government intervention. His agency has been busy gutting the rules that govern our airwaves, most notably repealing a rule which prohibited any single company from controlling a broadcast that can reach more than 39 percent of homes.
In what is a common theme for Pai, the plan relies heavily on “self regulation”. The ISP providers promise not to throttle bandwidth for premium customers or discriminate against content, and say that we should take their word for it, which seems like a dubious proposition. Internet Service Providers are notorious for their lack of decent customer service.
The Good Fight
The battle is officially heating up, and it will definitely get hotter. Expect tech giants such as Google. Amazon, and Microsoft to aggressively lobby against this position, as well as massive outcries from concerned citizens all across the country. The fight will be intense, with passionate arguments and tons of cash on all sides of this debate.
Those looking to take action can call their Congressmen, or participate in one of the many protests taking place in the coming weeks. There is plenty of support on this, and even if this goes through, the rules which govern the internet will not be rewritten overnight. Broadband companies will be hesitant to be too brazen, particularly in the face of what will be fierce opposition.
But that does not mean that we should not do all that we can to preserve a free and open internet. The fight to preserve net neutrality is here, and we need all the help we can get.
— ACLU (@ACLU) November 21, 2017
Photo courtesy of Joseph Gruber