Republicans on the Federal Communications Commission have net neutrality in their sites…again. This time, Trump appointed FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, is leading the charge to undo Obama-era regulations that gave the FCC the power to restrict internet providers (ISPs) from having complete control over broadband delivery. Pai plans to ignore public protests, industry expert recommendations, and court opinions to hand over the reigns of the internet to ISP’s.
Ajit Pai is an ex-lawyer for Verizon and staffer for Jeff Sessions. He claims to support a free and open internet, but he does not agree with the FCC’s rules. Pai would rather have Congress — who’s members think it’s cute to use the word “internets” — protect net neutrality than an agency full of industry experts.
“The Internet was not broken in 2015,” Pai said during Thursday’s hearing. “The utility-style regulations known as Title II were and are like the proverbial sledgehammer being wielded against the flea. Except that here, there was no flea.”
The FCC voted Thursday afternoon to roll back President Obama’s 2015 policies using Pai’s rule-changing proposal titled “Restoring Internet Freedom”. The rule change would strip the FCC of oversight abilities, and it would result in a report on the economic impact of strict net neutrality rules. The lone Democrat on the FCC Commission, Mignon Clyburn, renamed the proposition “Destroying Internet Freedom”.
Critics like Commissioner Clyburn argue that fair competition in the internet must be protected among other things. Without net neutrality, many argue, ISP’s can suppress first amendment rights by slowing down some webpages and applications. They could also alter speed and access to certain websites based on their bottom lines. For instance, if Hulu agrees to pay Comcast more than Netflix, Comcast could potentially slow Netflix’s streaming and download speeds. Now that’s scary.
Not only does rolling back net neutrality protections disrupt internet fairness, without them it could become harder for those in rural, less populated areas to receive adequate coverage. A past report by the FCC concluded that net neutrality protects broadband users from “discriminatory practices that whittle away… public Internet.” It went on to assert that “‘Openness’ is not just another… principle. The value of open networks is not a novel concept, but the Commission must act to ensure that the genius of the open Internet is not lost. Net neutrality rules are particularly important for rural broadband subscribers who may have only one provider.” The report states that the FCC needs to be instrumental in watching for and adjudicating discriminatory practices.
Why do Republicans, like Pai, want to put an end to net neutrality.
An April Wall Street Journal op-ed hails Pai’s plan because it would “revert to the bipartisan consensus that the internet should be “unfettered by Federal or State regulation”. Supporters want freedom for the ISP’s. “Freedom,” Democrat Commissioner Clyburn points out, that the courts have ruled against three times.
Alas, the FCC voted 1-3 to begin the process to peel back neutrality rules. Her words of dissent fell on deaf ears, but they may come to be an epithet if the proposition passes.
“If you unequivocally trust that your broadband provider will always put the public interest over self interest, then the destroying internet freedom [proposal] is for you.”
You can watch the FCC Net Neutrality Debate here: