Overshadowed by the never-ending stream of news generated by President Donald Trump, the FCC began the process of overturning Obama-era net neutrality rules. It’s time to pay attention!
It is ironic that the constant barrage of news generated by the Trump White House has impeded the legislative branch, while leaving the executive branch largely unaffected.
In fact, some of the most controversial moves by newly Trump-ified federal agencies probably escaped scrutiny because the president’s antics have so captivated the nation.
A prime example is Thursday’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) vote to roll back the “net neutrality” rules put in place during the Obama administration. These regulations ensured that Internet service providers treat all web traffic fairly — i.e., they cannot block or even slow access to some sites.
Although this is an issue that affects nearly all Americans, very few took notice of Thursday’s 2-1 party-line vote, which was championed by new FCC Chairman and former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai.
While this was just the first step in the rollback process, the move away from the Obama-era rules is backed by powerful and deep-pocketed companies — such as Verizon. That company and other Internet service providers publicly proclaim their support for net neutrality. However, they opposed the previous regulation and are in favor of Pai’s plan.
Basically, these major corporations, which are beholden to their bottom line and stockholders, are saying: “We are against regulations that force us to do the right thing, but you can trust us to always put consumers first.” That never works, especially not in industries in which a handful of companies have a monopoly.
Without the current rules, for example, the providers could decide to slow the loading speeds for the websites of net neutrality supporters to a crawl.
It is apparent that the Internet has become the lifeblood of all commerce and communications. Therefore, it must be protected by measures that benefit all Americans.
By allowing the continued consolidation of service providers without preventing them from playing favorites, we end up with less freedom of speech and we stifle the development of the next Google, Facebook, etc. In turn, Internet users in the US would pay way more than the rest of the world for less quality service.
This is one of the rare issues in which all Americans have a stake — and it might take all of them to stop the dismantling of net neutrality.
The cartoon above was created by DonkeyHotey for WhoWhatWhy from these images: Ajit Pai caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), Pai body (btphotosbduk / Flickr (CC BY 2.0), hard hat (Ted Murphy / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), piggy bank (401(K) 2012 / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0) and data center (U.S. Department of Energy / Flickr).