Last week FCC Chairman Ajit Pai appeased his evil telecom overlords and released
their his plan to destroy net neutrality. By dropping this bomb right before Thanksgiving, it was hoped this massive policy shift would be overshadowed by awful sex monsters and sportsball. Instead, this move to cripple the free flow of information provided by the Internet may have actually backfired on the arch-conservatives attempting to appease their corporate commanders.
Net neutrality is the idea that everything on the Internet is equal. There’s this this crazy belief that Internet service providers can’t stop you from reading Wonkette, then watching some animated kaiju bukkake porn from Japan, then snuggling up with your partner to Netflix and chill. Without net neutrality, your ISP can limit which sites and services you can see and use, and especially can decide how quickly you can access them.
In a statement, Chairman Pai says, “the prior FCC bowed to pressure from President Obama…it imposed heavy-handed, utility-style regulations upon the Internet.” Pai goes on to say that when Obama’s FCC actually listened to the millions of Americans who demanded that the Internet be classified as a utility (just like your water, gas, and electricity), it hurt poor, defenseless conglomerates’ oligopoly over the Internet. An open internet standard, according to Pai, discourages telecom companies from building new infrastructure (fiber lines) that could connect all the Main Streets in flyover country with the rest of the world.
Don’t bother wrapping your head around the half-baked logic there. If Internet companies wanted poor people to have decent Internet connections they could have built the infrastructure a long time ago. Back when Verizon was busy ripping up the suburbs and installing FiOS for all the McMansions, they assumed people would sell their first born children for “blazingly fast” Internet speeds — but then the housing market collapsed and the recession hoovered up any leftover cash for luxuries like a kickass Internet connections. Instead of investing in a robust and future-proof utility, the telecom companies just quit.
As usual, the biggest losers ended up being rural America and inner cities where it’s common for people to still use dial-up. This has led to widen the “digital divide,” and it’s paradoxically become the favorite talking point for sinister fucks like Pai. If only we give telecoms the option of making a lot more money, maybe they’ll give poor folks cheap Internet out of the goodness of their corporate hearts. Or not.
The Obama administration took a major step in “bridging the digital divide” in 2015 when it ruled that the Internet would be classified as a Title II utility. This weaved the Internet into the social safety net. ISPs and telecoms had to offer reasonably affordable options for Internet access, and they couldn’t screw around with what people looked at or how fast it traveled through their tubes.
In stripping away the Obama-era Title II net neutrality regulations, Pai is not only killing basic access to a utility, he’s giving control to the very companies who have demonstrated their only concern is maximizing profit potential.
Just in case some podunk mayor in Middle America gets a wild hair up their ass, Pai is attempting to block state and local governments from imposing their own local net neutrality standards. However, some cities have already begun building their own municipal broadband systems. Years of being yanked around forced San Francisco to pass legislation that will let them build a municipal internet infrastructure, Detroit is already building theirs, while Philly has had municipal wireless for years. And it’s not just in America: even Amsterdam has municipal Internet.
The two Democratic Commissioners on the FCC, Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel, are calling for public hearings on the rule change instead of just letting shit happen. Just to drive home the point, Mignon Clyburn served up a savage beatdown of Pai’s move, stating
[The] FCC majority is about to deliver a cornucopia full of rotten fruit, stale grains, and wilted flowers topped off with a plate full of burnt turkey…This most unwelcome #ThanksgivingFail is simply a giveaway to the nation’s largest communications companies, at the expense of consumers and innovation. It is not only bad public policy but is legally suspect.
Killing net neutrality will not only ruin your ability to read Wonkette, it could stop you from looking at cute kittens and gawking at free porn. You can kiss that Cyber Monday shopathon goodbye, unless you’ve coughed up the cash for a better speed. Internet companies will make you pay for “fast lanes” to certain websites, a business model that doesn’t yet exist since currently, net neutrality means all Internet traffic is equal.
If you want to fight, you can be an armchair activist and sign some petitions on SaveTheInternet.com, or BattleForTheNet.com. You can take the message to the streets and find a protest. Don’t sleep on this one; there’s already over a million bots spamming anti-neutrality comments, and your voice will be important if/when this goes to court.