FCC Plans Vote to Overturn Net Neutrality, Just in Time for the Holidays

We have a problem when companies that control access to the internet also have a vested interest in distributing content on the internet. We have a problem when service providers have unrestricted control to throttle or make access more expensive. We have a problem as major corporations find easier paths to mergers and acquisitions rather than compete.

There really isn’t a “both sides” to this issue. Far smarter individuals than I have spent months clearing the fog of misinformation surrounding this topic. I would highly recommend following Gigi Sohn as one example, she was legal counsel to Tom Wheeler when he was Chairman of the FCC. Her interviews are fantastic. I would also read the dissenting opinions of Mignon Clyburn, an FCC Commissioner opposed to ending Net Neutrality.

In a nutshell, you either want unrestricted access to the internet at fair and competitive prices, free of any influence over the speed of competing services, OR you want Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T to decide what you can access, how you can access, and to charge subscribers and content providers arbitrarily for what you access.

Overwhelming, people who comment on this issue support the idea of Net Neutrality, yet we still find ourselves at a precious crossroads. Again, we have to fight to protect ridiculously basic protections. It’s taken us a decade to get to this point, where a woefully underfunded regulatory agency has some authority to say “don’t unfairly throttle competition” or “don’t throttle gamers” or “don’t mess with app developers” or “don’t put horrifically expensive caps on data” or “don’t block VOIP, Facetime, and Skype calls”.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s assertion that corporations have never violated the spirit of Net Neutrality, that ISP abuses are purely “hypothetical”, is a bald faced lie.

It’s infuriating and exhausting that we have to keep fighting this. Net Neutrality became the law in 2015, but laws can be altered and repealed. We only need to lose this fight once to undo years worth of work.

It’s no coincidence that the FCC, under Chairman Pai, former Verizon counsel, just rescinded a 42 year old rule blocking media mergers, making it even easier for a single corporate entity to own multiple print, TV, and radio outlets in addition to the online entities for those outlets.

Ending these regulations and protections will not lead to an open internet. I personally would prefer a more Libertarian exercise of free market control over data and services, but we can’t get there if we start the game off rigged for the media giants already in control of a vast amount of the game’s resources. We’ve already seen the effects of this kind of policy at the local and state level. Most of the people who might read this will only have access to one or two internet service providers, and those companies likely don’t really compete.

At present I can pay for a single Cable connection or a single DSL connection. That’s not a choice. I can’t choose between Comcast, Charter, Spectrum, and Google Fiber. I can “CHOOSE” to pay a lot for Spectrum, or pay the same for SIGNIFICANTLY slower DSL. Sadly, I’m lucky to even have that fake choice, as many people, especially folks in more rural areas, won’t even get that.

Deregulating the market will not improve this situation. It will make it worse.

Chairman Pai is likely to call a vote on ending Net Neutrality some time in the next two months, hiding the vote under the holidays. It’s more important than ever to make our voices heard. While we probably won’t be able to influence the vote, The FCC holds a 3-2 Republican majority, having more citizens on the record gives Pro Net Neutrality legislators leverage to challenge this ruling in the courts. It’s important to show our support for this issue heading into the mid-terms, and rebuilding consumer protections post 2020.

This is a fight worth fighting.