What, you thought we were done fighting for the right to have unimpeded access to our favorite webpages? Think again. The fight for net neutrality is starting up again, and it’s in real danger of getting wiped out this time.
For those who don’t know, net neutrality is what we (mostly) currently enjoy when using the internet: a policy that ensures that internet service providers (ISPs) don’t throttle our browsing speed based on what websites we visit. If this rule wasn’t in place, ISPs could favor organizations that pay them extra fees, and hinder the loading speeds of smaller websites on a whim. Net neutrality was (largely) assured by a 2015 Obama-era order that classified broadband internet as a public utility. Under this order, the Federal Communications Commission would regulate ISPs and ensure they weren’t discriminating against any webpages. The order was signed while an Obama ally was in charge of the FCC, and with the expectation that Democrats would retain control following the 2016 election.
They didn’t. Said Obama ally, Tom Wheeler, resigned after the election. And Ajit Pai, the current Chairman of the FCC (pictured above), is no fan of net neutrality. He thinks that regulating ISPs is a dated, pointless endeavor—that it should be up to the ISPs to regulate themselves. And after a year of speculation that he would, Pai is now ready to outline the FCC’s new plan regarding net neutrality. And he’s going to do it this week, near a national holiday, when everyone is traveling and no one is paying attention.
The FCC debuted an open forum of sorts earlier this year, and the vast majority of the millions of responses were pro-net neutrality. The few that were against it were largely bots, bots which were easy to spot because they all said nearly the same thing and also because they used the names of people that either had never heard of net neutrality or were dead. According to Slate, the FCC is largely ignoring the many pro-net neutrality responses, and is instead claiming to be the victim of a DDoS attack (of which it has provided no evidence). Slate also reports that at least one former FCC commissioner is crying foul at what the Commission is doing.
But Pai seems unconcerned with the massive amount of bipartisan support for net neutrality. He still wants to ax it, and after the plan is outlined this week, it is widely expected that the FCC board will vote on repealing the 2015 order in December. The vote is expected to go in Pai’s favor.
Instead of looking at the real issues involving ISPs (like, for instance, how much power already lies in the hands of just a few companies), Pai is ignoring a decade of legal precedent and waves of popular backlash just because he doesn’t want these ISPs to be regulated. You can read more on net neutrality and send in a comment to the FCC here.