DRAFT: Why The Fight For Net Neutrality Has Just Begun

If you’ve been a bit disconnected this week, or if your attention has been drawn to so much else occurring in the news, you can be forgiven for missing out on critical development for the fight for Net Neutrality in the United States.

But before we go there, let’s back up a bit, courtesy of ABC News‘ Lindsey Jacobson…

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the principle that ISPs treat all content equally and not give preference to some digital content providers. That means the consumer can load every website, app, video, .gif, etc., equally, regardless of where the content is hosted. For example, an ISP may not charge more for sites that stream movies or promote a specific agenda. This is also referred to as the open internet.

When was the current net neutrality law passed?

After a request from President Obama after public comments, the FCC voted in February 2015 to classify consumer broadband service as a public utility under Title II Order of the 1934 Communications Act. Under that law, the FCC adopted no-blocking, no-throttling and no-paid-prioritization rules, according to the notice of proposed rulemaking released by the FCC. The measure controls how companies provide services to consumers. Under this order, the internet is deemed a common carrier or public utility, so ISPs are regulated. Other public utilities include electricity and phone service companies.

Yes, you read that correctly… the laws which govern Net Neutrality actually pre-date the internet as we know it by over 70 years.  And therein lies the heart of the conflict.  The Obama administration held a fundamental belief that internet access is now as vital a utility as access to telephones (you know, back when telephones only had one function) or electricity.  They set rules, via the Federal Communications Commission, that internet access should be equal and open to all.

As you can imagine, the Trump Administration, Republican Congress and many of his corporate backers feel differently.  Here’s what happened this week, via Jacob Kastrenakes of The Verge

Net neutrality is dead — at least for now. In a 3-2 vote today, the Federal Communications Commission approved a measure to remove the tough net neutrality rules it put in place just two years ago. Those rules prevented internet providers from blocking and throttling traffic and offering paid fast lanes. They also classified internet providers as Title II common carriers in order to give the measure strong legal backing.

Today’s vote undoes all of that. It removes the Title II designation, preventing the FCC from putting tough net neutrality rules in place even if it wanted to. And, it turns out, the Republicans now in charge of the FCC really don’t want to. The new rules largely don’t prevent internet providers from doing anything. They can block, throttle, and prioritize content if they wish to. The only real rule is that they have to publicly state that they’re going to do it.

Within hours of the Party-line vote (the 2 Democrats on the FCC voted to uphold the rules, vs. the 3 Republicans), several states announced lawsuits that are to be filed against the Trump administration.

So sure… a ruling by the Trump-era FCC that is clearly misguided, and potentially dangerous for our ability to live our modern lives.  But remember… these are all FCC rules.  If Americans care enough about preserving an open internet, it’s time to take this fight to the ballot box so that the principle of Net Neutrality can become LAW.  Even with The current Presidency in place until 2021, there’s plenty that can be done in state legislatures, and in the courts to put pressure on the White House to change its mind.  But the true test of this fight happens in November.  This should be a question that is put to every candidate running for Congress, and adopted in political party platforms so voters have the power to choose.

So instead of worrying about the FCC’s rules, let’s work to change the law and ensure Net Neutrality will last longer than the next Administration.

 

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