Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced its plans to gut protections for one of the fundamental principles of the free and open internet.
Despite the millions of Americans who spoke out in support of net neutrality during a nationwide day of action earlier this year, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is instead siding with a handful of massive cable companies like Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, and AT&T, and proposing a sweeping roll-back of Obama-era net neutrality protections.
The 2015 Open Internet Order classified broadband Internet access service as a “telecommunications service” under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. In doing so the previous FCC , among other things, adopted three major rules for the open internet; no blocking, no throttling, and no paid prioritization.
The essence of net neutrality lies in those bright-line rules; that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should not block, slow down access to, or allow paid prioritization of content, but rather, should remain content-neutral in their delivery of service.
Rolling back these rules would allow your ISP to block or slow down your connection to apps or sites you access over their service, or charge you extra to access certain content.
This roll-back of net neutrality protections will undoubtedly lead to a future where only the largest internet, cable, and telephone companies can survive, while every start-up, small business, and new innovator is crowded out, and the voices of the independent media—like the Long Beach Post—nonprofits and ordinary individuals are suppressed.
Put simply: if the cable companies win the power to discriminate based on content, they can bully independent sites like this one into paying anything they ask to escape their artificial internet “slow lane,” while giving sites that can afford to pay—or sites the cable companies themselves own—priority treatment.
Cost to you will inevitably also go up, further widening the already troubling digital divide in this country, as ISPs take advantage of increased monopoly power to raise rates on content providers and consumers alike.
FCC Chairman Pai has abdicated the responsibilities of his position—but Congress still has a chance to do the right thing.
Only an act of Congress can stop the FCC and the ISPs from destroying the free and open internet, a platform that has given humanity the greatest access to knowledge, platform to share our collective voice, and driver of innovation in the history of the world.
Call or Tweet your Congressperson, find out where they stand, and demand they tell the FCC to do its job and protect the fundamental freedom of information upon which the internet was founded.