We’ve got less than 24 hours left to protect net neutrality
by Trevor Timm, The Guardian
Wednesday 30 August 2017
Giant corporations shouldn’t dictate how we use the internet. Most people agree with that principle, and that’s why the Federal Communications Commission passed the incredibly popular net neutrality rules in 2015. The Trump administration’s political appointees are attempting to roll these protections back. You’ve got less than 24 hours left to make your voice heard.
Net neutrality is the general principle that all content and information on the internet should be treated equally by internet service providers (ISPs) such as Comcast or Verizon. Once you pay for access to the internet, ISPs should not be able to block or throttle traffic to particular websites, or allow for “paid prioritization” that speeds up websites at the expense of others.
For example, Comcast – which is owned by NBCUniversal – shouldn’t be able to decide one day to slow down your connection to Netflix to benefit a competing streaming service like Hulu.
Net neutrality promotes innovation and competition, protects free speech and prevents censorship. Under current FCC policy, there are strong protections in place that ensure exactly that.
Thanks to a strong grassroots movement, buoyed by dozens of civil society groups and a now famous segment by John Oliver that implored citizens to contact the FCC, the agency received millions of comments in 2014 in of support of creating net neutrality rules to protect the rights of internet users to access all content in a free and open manner.
Despite initial worries that the Obama administration would cave to pressure from the telecom giants, the FCC instead issued a landmark ruling, re-classifying ISPs under what is known as “title II” authority, which gave the FCC the power to treat ISPs like public utilities and prevent them from prioritizing their own content or throttling internet speeds of certain websites over others.
There are few government regulations that are more popular than the FCC’s net neutrality rules. A poll conducted just last week showed that 60% of the public supported the FCC’s net neutrality rules, while only 17% opposed them.
And as the Hill noted, that support is strong across the political spectrum: “61% of voters who identify as Democrats are either strongly or somewhat in favor of the rules,” they wrote, “and among Republicans that number is 59%.”
But the popularity of strong rights on the internet has never stopped Republicans from dismantling them in the past. It was just a few months ago that the entire congressional Republican party voted to give ISPs the power to sell internet users’ browsing history, which virtually no one in the entire country wanted except for powerful corporations like AT&T.
The same scenario may play out at the FCC if Trump appointee and new agency chairman Ajit Pai has his way. Pai has dubbed the FCC’s new proposal to roll back the Obama-era net neutrality rules the Restoring Internet Freedom Act, ostensibly trying to confuse consumers into supporting a proposal that certainly will leave corporations with vastly more power to control how we consume information online.
Fight for the Future, one of the advocacy organizations leading the fight to submit millions more comments to the FCC this time around, has even plastered billboards up in at least nine in congressional districts across the country calling out congressmen who support the FCC’s plan. But given the Republican control of the FCC and Congress, it remains an uphill fight.